Due to injuries, Richardson has played in just 31 of a possible 48 regular-season games in three years with Seattle. But he’s loaded with potential. “They showed a lot of faith in me,” he says.
When Russell Wilson’s pass on fourth down from the 2-yard-line floated his way Saturday, Paul Richardson decided to reward one leap of faith with another of his own.
“I knew from the snap, I don’t care where this ball lands, where it goes — I’m about to catch this ball,’’ Richardson said.
He did so in an unlikely and highlight-making way, reaching around Detroit safety Tavon Wilson to grab the ball with one hand as each player fell to the turf, ultimately securing a 7-0 lead that Seattle never relinquished in a 26-6 win.
Some argued later that Richardson also had a little bit of Tavon Wilson’s face mask.
“I feel like the ball was in the air and I made a play on it,’’ Richardson said with a smile a few days later when asked if he felt he had any of Wilson’s face mask. “That’s all.’’
Whatever it took.
That was Richardson’s motto Saturday in what was his latest, if not best, chance to make an impact during what has been a three-year Seahawks career pockmarked with injuries.
Looking back on a road that has included playing in just 31 of a possible 48 regular-season games in three years, Richardson said “they showed a lot of faith in me. They had a lot of options and I’m just happy that I could be a part of it.”
Richardson was the team’s first pick in the 2014 draft, taken in the second round, regarded as a possible replacement for Golden Tate, who had just departed via free agency. His rookie season featured the inevitable learning curves — 29 catches in 15 games — before he suffered an ACL injury in a playoff game against Carolina, knocking him out for the rest of the playoffs and the first eight games of the 2015 season.
Just when he returned, he tore a hamstring while making his only catch of the 2015 season, a 40-yarder against Arizona.
Along the way, he fell behind Tyler Lockett in the team’s receiving rotation, going one 12-game stretch this season with just nine receptions.
Then, on Christmas Eve, Lockett suffered a season-ending broken leg, and suddenly it was Richardson’s turn again.
“It’s been a long road for him and really it’s been a road where the bumps in the road have been those injuries,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “You think back to last year, he had one play, like a (40) yard play, and he gets hurt on that same play. We know who he is, we know what we like about him. He has all the ability in the world.”
Richardson said he has never lost faith in that, as well.
During the middle part of the season, Richardson usually got 10-12 snaps each Sunday, and chances to do much were rare.
Coach Pete Carroll, though, praised the way Richardson continued to prepare for whatever role came his way.
“This is the kind of play we see from him in practice, so it’s not unfamiliar,” Carroll said. “He’s been waiting a long while to help this team and feel significant about that impact, and he’s done that so we’re looking forward to continue it.”
Richardson said he wasn’t the primary receiver on the touchdown catch — Tanner McEvoy and tight end Luke Willson were also on the field as the Seahawks lined up in an I-formation. Richardson, who lined up in the left slot, began to cut across the field as Wilson faked a handoff and then rolled to his right. Richardson said it was at that point he knew he might get the ball.
“I saw Russ waving at me to get across the field and I got excited,” Richardson said.
Wilson ended up throwing the ball from about the 13 to Richardson, who was about eight yards deep in the end zone — not the highest-percentage pass on a play snapped from the 2.
“That was difficult for anybody to make,” said Richardson, who has seen the replay more than a few times this week. “But you know I was locked in on the ball. I saw the ball, I knew I needed to make the play.”
Richardson added another one-handed catch later in the game, leading Carroll after the game to say, “He’s the guy we hoped he would be when we (drafted him).”
While he knows he needs to make more than one catch in one game to validate that statement, Richardson enjoyed the moment Saturday, returning to the locker room to a phone he said had blown up with texts and calls.
“It was a lot of support,” he said. “Lots of calls out of nowhere, to say the least.”
And an out-of-nowhere play that was a long time coming.