For the first time in his NFL career, Jets fullback Tony Richardson will face the Kansas City Chiefs this afternoon at the Meadowlands.
"I think last year it probably would have had a little bit more meaning. This year it's just a football game," Richardson said. "I've been gone for three years now and there are a lot of brand new faces and a lot of young guys I don't know."
Richardson, in his 14th NFL season out of Auburn, spent 1994 on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad before an 11-season Chiefs run from 1995–2005. Kansas City captured the AFC West in '95, '97 and 2003 but failed to win a postseason game each of those years.
"The year Priest [Holmes] broke the touchdown record was very, very special. We were able do a lot of great things on offense," Richardson said. "But the bottom line is we weren't able to win a championship. That's one thing I will definitely remember most."
Though he departed Kansas City without a ring, Richardson helped Holmes and Larry Johnson achieve historic success. Johnson, who will be inactive today due to off-the-field problems, rushed for a then-Chiefs-record 1,750 yards in 2005. Holmes made Pro Bowl trips from '01-03 and established a then-NFL record with 27 rushing touchdowns in '03.
"The only guys I know really well now are Donnie Edwards, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali a little bit," he said. "After that, it's just a regular game for me."
Some people view this as a "must" game for the Jets and Richardson agrees. But his sentiment has nothing to do with his club's 3-3 record, the disappointing overtime loss last weekend Oakland or a schedule that will send the Green & White on the road three of the next four weeks following today's contest.
"Every game in the National Football League is a must-win just from the fact that you only play 16. It's not basketball or baseball where you play 100-plus games," he said. "There are 16 games in the regular season and every one is a must-win. That's how I approach all of them and I look at this as no different. It's a must-win because it's the next game."
Simply put, the Jets are in no position to look forward to next weekend's battle at Buffalo. They might trail the 5-1 Bills by two games in the AFC East but there are 10 games remaining, including a pair with the Bills, who play their first division contest today.
"You try not to look at those things because you don't have any control over what they're doing over there. You control what you're doing, so you have to take it day to day, week to week and game to game," Richardson said. "The only thing we can control is the game in front of us. When this one is over and done, we can put it behind and move onto the next one."
The 1-5 Chiefs are in a rebuilding mode and they have a very young squad. They'll likely start a pair of rookies, Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers, at corner but teams have been successful keeping the ball on the ground against them. Statistically, KC has the NFL's 32nd-ranked run defense, yielding 207.2 yards per game.
And the Jets would like to sustain their rush momentum. One of the bright spots in last week's defeat was a ground attack that amassed 242 yards.
"That's encouraging but we watched the film and there's so many things we can improve on," Richardson said. "You watch the film and, yeah, we were able to get some positive run yards, but there are a lot of things we can correct and that's encouraging. There is always room for improvement and things we can start to get better on."
Thomas Jones imposed his will on the Silver & Black, gaining 159 yards that included three 20-plus runs. And the last time he played at the Meadowlands, he scored a career-high three touchdowns in a 26-14 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 12.
"We've had time to play together so I think we are playing with good chemistry as far as the offensive line, running backs, receivers and quarterbacks," Jones said.
"He is getting in a groove and that's coming from opportunities. Most running backs, the more opportunities they get, the more they get in," said T-Rich of TJ. "You have a lot of new offensive linemen and you have to get in sync with them. He's adjusting to a new fullback and all those types of things. He's getting a feel for the guys who are blocking for him and the receivers who are blocking for him."
After spending the past two seasons with the Vikings in Minnesota and signing with the Jets in March, Richardson finally will get his first crack at the Chiefs.
"I think there are still some fans who remember when I wore the jersey out there but it is what it is. I still keep my home there and I'm still actively involved in the community there," he said. "Kansas City was a special place for me and obviously Marty Schottenheimer gave me my start and I was able to be there for 11 years. But now it's on to a new day."