The hardest part for Trent Richardson was having to deliver the news to his young children. They wondered why Daddy was suddenly home every day, why they weren't able to watch him anymore on Sundays.
"I had to tell them I didn't have a job," said Richardson. "I wasn't ready for that."
After a year out of the NFL, after months of introspection, Richardson will be able to tell his kids next week that he's headed back to work. In a phone interview Thursday with The Baltimore Sun, the 25-year-old running back said he expects to sign with the Ravens in time to join the team for the start of the offseason workout program on April 18.
"I can't wait," Richardson said. "I feel like I did when I left home from high school to go to college. To me, it's about earning an opportunity that they gave him. I'm in a position to earn a spot on the team, a chance to actually be that guy. I know there's going to be a lot of competition. I know there's going to be a lot of fighting among ourselves, but we're all out there for the same thing. We all want to try and get better, we all want to be that guy. But at the same time, I'm coming in and I'm ready to work."
It is that excitement, that desire to make good on perhaps one final NFL opportunity that made an impression on Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has kept in touch with Richardson since he worked out at the team facility last month. The Ravens told Richardson to keep working out and getting in better shape, and if all went well, there could be a roster spot available for him later in the offseason.
At last month's NFL owners meetings, Harbaugh said the Ravens have an unofficial agreement with Richardson and he expected him to join the team in a couple of weeks.
"When it comes to them giving me an opportunity, like I told [general manager Ozzie Newsome] and I told coach, 'I'm going to give you everything you ask for and more,'" Richardson said. "There's no way that I cannot be on the field. At the end of the day, it's all about what I put in. I'm putting in the work and I know that I'm actually going in and giving it my all. At the end of the day, I can trust myself."
Richardson said he covets the opportunity to "write his own story," and salvage a career that became unglued.
After winning two national championships at Alabama and establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the country, Richardson was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.
He justified the hype as a rookie, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games, and also catching 51 passes for 367 yards and a score. However, he was traded by the rebuilding Browns to the Indianapolis Colts during the 2013 season, a move that backfired for both Richardson and his new team.
In parts of two seasons with the Colts, Richardson averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and didn't eclipse 1,000 yards in 29 games with Indianapolis. Rock bottom was when Richardson was left inactive for the Colts' first two 2014 playoff games and then suspended for the AFC championship game after he missed a walk-through practice and didn't notify the team in advance. He was released about two months later.
Richardson signed on with the Oakland Raiders but he was cut late in the 2015 preseason and never was able to secure another job despite getting a couple of tryouts.
Richardson readily admits now that he made several missteps. His work ethic dipped significantly and he lost track of what was important. He listened to people that didn't have his best interest in his mind.
His difficult year out of the NFL put all those things in focus, and he said that the opportunity he soon could get with the Ravens gives him a chance to right many wrongs.
"I've got a lot to prove to myself," said Richardson who says that he's lost weight since working out for the Ravens last month. "It's not about everybody else this time, it's about me. I'm really giving it my all. It's enough talk. We've been doing a lot of talking. Now it's just time to put up."
He understands that it's far from a certainty that he makes the Ravens' regular-season roster. The Ravens are deep at running back with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West (Northwestern High, Towson) and Terrence Magee, and they could add another one in the draft later this month. In recent seasons, the Ravens have mostly kept just three backs.
Richardson knows this, but he also already feels a comfort level with the organization. He feels a rapport with Harbaugh and he knows Newsome due to their Alabama ties. He says that the Ravens' physical, blue-collar mentality reminds him of what they had during his time at Alabama.