BOULDER - In Paul Richardson's final analysis, the future outweighed the present. Colorado's talented junior receiver announced on Wednesday afternoon he will forego a comeback attempt this season and focus on returning for 2013.
After undergoing knee surgery in April to repair a torn ACL, Richardson's rehabilitation accelerated fast enough that he was given a mid-September timeline to be reevaluated for a possible return. But on Monday, he spoke with CU coach Jon Embree, his family and team doctors and came to the conclusion that coming back - even if medically cleared after an intensified five-week program - would be too risky.
Rather than waiting until mid-September for results of his reevaluation and possible clearance, he decided to go ahead with his announcement to sit out "just so I won't be worried about it . . . I'm still taking classes, I'm still working out. I didn't want that on my mind, just having to decide when I'm going to be able to break the news of me playing or not playing."
"P-Rich" said his recovery "is still going well, but just to lower the chances of reinjuring it and to make sure I'm ready to play when I do take the field again, I just think it's the best decision for me to make right now."
Embree concurred, calling Richardson's decision "more of a relief than a surprise. I'm sure you guys could probably tell - I wasn't fired up about him trying to rush back . . .
"Everyone always thinks about the happy ending, but no one wants a career ruined. I think he has a bright future; this allows him to do some things in the weight room and get stronger and bigger."
Embree had assembled his staff in early June and polled each assistant on Richardson's possible return and what it might mean to the 2012 Buffs. Then, he asked his assistants a follow-up question: "'If he was your son what would you want?' The answer changed.
"I look at all these kids like they're my own. I know if that was my son I would want him to get healthy-healthy and not rush it back. As much as I'd love to have him, this is about a career and not necessarily a season."
Richardson, who played in nine of CU's 13 games last season and finished third on the team in receptions (39) and yards (555), said he was comfortable with his decision: "Definitely . . . (but) it's going to be tough every night before the game in the hotel with the team knowing I won't be able to suit up with them. But I'll still be taking the field with the guys . . .
"It really is a family out there, and it's more of a family feeling than it's ever been since I've been here. I'm just going to appreciate going out there with them anyway."
Among his reasons for quashing a possible early comeback were not being able to play a full season and perhaps disrupting the timing of the offense by returning three or four games into the season.
"I would have come back already knowing the offense with a healthier body, but sitting three games could disrupt the rhythm as well," he said. "I'd rather continue to coach these guys up and just help the staff as much as I can.
"I think the offense is clicking really well right now . . . I would hope I would make a better addition to it, but I know with the guys we have now we won't miss a beat in the receiving corps without me."
The receiving corps' numbers, though, aren't what position coach Bobby Kennedy expected. In addition to Richardson's absence, talented freshman Jeffery Hall returned home to Dallas two weeks into camp and now is scheduled to grayshirt (enroll in January). Plus, camp opened without freshman Peyton Williams, who also is scheduled to grayshirt while he continues to rehabilitate following knee surgery.
Kennedy's first five receivers now are sophomores Tyler McCulloch and Keenan Canty, redshirt freshman Nelson Spruce, true freshman Gerald Thomas and senior Dustin Ebner.
If Richardson was cleared and decided to return, Embree said the other Buffs wideouts would "have to step up anyway. If he was going to come back, it was four maybe five games into it. So you can't sit around . . . that's the thing about sports, you can't wait for someone to come back. You've got to go seize your opportunity when it's your time. That was communicated to those guys anyway before this transpired."
With the exception of playing, Richardson plans to spend as much time as possible around his teammates. He said he hopes to "be a better big brother, a better older guy on the team for the rest of the receivers and the offense."
From time spent in position meetings, Embree believes Richardson can learn more about defensive coverages and why offenses attack defenses in certain ways. "If he does this right and uses his time correctly, which he has done so far, it'll make him a better football player," Embree said.
By using his redshirt year this season, Richardson will have two more years of eligibility. With two college seasons completed, he could contemplate turning pro but said, "I try not to think about it . . . the reality of it is not a lot of us make it. I'm just trying to stay on the realistic side of it and get my degree, which I will early. So I'll take it from there."
Embree was more emphatic. Reminded that Richardson could be eligible to turn pro, Embree responded, "Yeah, I could be an astronaut, too . . . he'll be back."
WOOD IS NO. 2 QB FOR CSU: Sophomore Connor Wood will back up starting quarterback Jordan Webb for Saturday's opener against Colorado State (2 p.m., Sports Authority Field at Mile High). But that doesn't mean Wood's duel with sophomore Nick Hirschman has ended: Embree said the backup position could change weekly.
Wood, said Embree, won the No. 2 position for the opener because of his "good decisions and consistency."
Earlier in the week, Wood, who transferred to CU last summer from Texas and sat out last season, said he was "just trying to concentrate on what I'm doing in practice and whatever happens is going to happen."
Webb, a transfer from Kansas who is enrolled in graduate school at CU and has two years of eligibility remaining, won the starting job a mere eight days into training camp. After that decision, Wood said he believed he had competed satisfactorily for the backup role.
"One, it's my nature to keep on competing no matter what position you're in," he said. "You just keep doing your best and working your butt off . . . in a back-up position you're one play away. You can't take time off; you've got to be training like you're the starter, thinking like you're the starter. You're that close. That's what they (coaches) communicated to me and Nick."
HARNESSING 'MO' FROM ROAD 'W': The Buffs' season-ending victory at Utah (17-14) last November snapped a 24-game out-of-state losing streak. The team's goal was to use that momentum to fuel off-season work and continue the surge into this season.
Is that possible? Junior offensive tackle David Bakhtiari believes so.
"You noticed it in spring ball," he said. "Guys had a sense of urgency, that's the biggest thing I saw when we practiced. People were flying around, playing ball. Whereas before, there was a little hesitancy, a little slower going on some days and a kind of 'I'm not feeling like playing football today.' No, that didn't happen last spring. I'd say definitely there's been a carryover, a sense of urgency. Now guys are dialing in to play CSU."
Junior defensive back Parker Orms agreed: "We've got to keep growing from that, play like we did in that (Utah) game and keep moving forward from there. That was a big win for us and I think this first game is going to be a big one for us, too."
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE RAMS' 'D': Bakhtiari and his O-line mates say they're prepared for whatever front CSU shows them, be it a 3-4 or a 4-3 or something exotic.
"We really don't know," Bakhtiari said. "We have our ideas of what they're going to do - either a three-down odd front or a 4-3. We're preparing for both and we know how to protect against either one. We could be practicing against a 3-4 all week and they come out in a 4-3 . . . we know 4-3 really well, but we're prepping for both.
"It's not a huge conflict. We'll see whatever they end up lining up in and if they do something different we'll come off the field and adjust from there."
FORECAST CALLS FOR HIGH INTENSITY: Orms grew up in Wheat Ridge, Bakhtiari in Burlingame, Calif. When he arrived in Boulder, Orms didn't have to be briefed on the CU-CSU rivalry. Bakhtiari didn't know diddly about it - but he learned quickly.
"The biggest help I can give to the young guys is that (CSU) will go hard," Bakhtiari said. "It's a pride thing here . . . when I was a freshman and played my first game here I didn't know what to expect. The one thing I noticed is the pride; they take this personally. They fly around.
"Now that I'm older, I tell (the younger players) that they're going to be playing to the whistle - maybe sometimes after the whistle. You have to be ready for that and hold your temper. If they try to cheap shot you, then get after them the next time before the whistle blows."
Orms called the game "huge for both of us . . . it sucks that one of us has to come out with a loss. We don't want it to be us and I know they don't want it to be them."
BUFF BITS: Embree singled out linebackers Brady Daigh and Derek Webb and defensive tackle Will Pericak as having "excellent camps . . . those guys took advantage of opportunities." He said Daigh, a sophomore, capitalized on the occasional absence of senior middle starter Doug Rippy (knee) and took the opportunity "to prepare like he was the guy . . . he's had a very good camp; I'm excited for him. Brady has come a long way. He's had to go through a lot of different things. He's had some things happen to him on and off the field and he's done a great job of fighting through it and forcing himself to get better. He's a guy I'm excited for our fans to see as his career continues here." . . . . Game-day defensive assignments for coaches - press box or field - are to be decided on Thursday, but Embree said offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer will work on Saturday from the press box . . . . CU's game-day depth chart will include 16 true freshmen. Redshirt freshman receiver Nelson Spruce isn't concerned about the greenery. "They wouldn't be in the position they are unless they had the talent and could make a contribution," he said. "The coaches think they can make an impact and from what I've seen everyone is in the right place. Those young guys are in a position to do something; they have all the ability."