CLEVELAND — The Browns are playing it safe with Trent Richardson.
Cleveland's star running back will not play in the club's exhibition opener on tonight against the St. Louis Rams as he continues to recover from an injured right shin. Richardson was accidentally kicked in the shin — the same one he hurt during spring practice — last week, and the Browns won't risk him hurting it further.
"We're going to be smart," coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday. Chudzinski said Richardson could have played if it was a regular-season game, but the Browns are being careful with the former first-round pick, who has had a history with injuries and played most of last season with two broken ribs.
Chudzinski said he is not concerned about Richardson's durability.
"It's the preseason, we have a plan of working him and making sure that he gets reps as needed out here in practice and we build him to be ready for the beginning of the season," Chudzinski said.
Richardson did not play in any of Cleveland's exhibition games a year ago, when he was recovering from minor knee surgery. He recently said one of his goals was to play in all four of preseason games. Richardson took part in some drills Wednesday, but was not on the field during team activities.
Chudzinski said Richardson understands the reasons for the Browns keeping him out.
Richardson rushed for 950 yards and caught 51 passes for 367 yards as a rookie. He played in 15 games, missing only the finale at Pittsburgh with an ankle injury sustained the previous week at Denver.
Chudzinski said Dion Lewis will start in Richardson's spot. Also, starting strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring) and starting guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle) will sit out against the Rams.
The Browns plan to play their starters for about one quarter, meaning quarterback Brandon Weeden will only have a few series to impress Cleveland's coaching staff and maybe silence some critics who don't think he's Cleveland's long-term answer at QB.
Weeden has showed progress during training camp, and seems more comfortable with the Browns' new offense.
His goals against the Rams are pretty simple.
"Just string together consecutive good plays, string together couple good drives, just get the feel of the game," he said. "It's a little different than practice, obviously there's going to be some emotions, there's going to be a lot more adrenaline and stuff like that. So I think it's just put together a couple good drives and completions and just manage the game and do the things I need to do to move the ball up the field."
The Browns' defense has had the upper hand during recent practices, but Weeden feels Cleveland's offense is starting to gel.
"We're making strides," he said. "We have a long ways to go. I don't think we're where we need to be. I think if you ask anybody, they'd all say the same thing, we've got a long ways to go. I still feel good about the guys we have. I'm excited about the potential. Once you get in the game and you get those live reps you can get a better understanding, because it's tough when you go against your defense all the time and they have a pretty good idea what you're doing and you know what they're doing."
On defense, the Browns will get their first chance to unleash an aggressive scheme that has been installed by new coordinator Ray Horton, who spent the past two seasons in Arizona.
NOTES: Rookie CB Leon McFadden (groin) and RB Montario Hardesty (hamstring) will also sit out the preseason opener. McFadden missed his first practice on Wednesday. ... Johnson Bademosi will start for Ward and Jason Pinkston will replace Lauvao at right guard. ... The Browns will honor Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown at their Oct. 3 game against Buffalo.
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