Soul's Richardson ready for rematch with San Jose

Posted: July 18, 2014

IT WAS EARLY last August, in an otherwise ordinary NFL exhibition game in Cleveland, that Kent Richardson touched football heaven.

"Getting into the game, all of those preseason games, that's what every kid dreams of," said Richardson, who was thisclose to making the Browns regular-season roster. "When I finally got out there, I was like, 'Man, I'm really on the stage that I wanted to be for years.' It was wonderful."

Richardson was the best defensive back in Arena Football when he was plucked from the Soul by Cleveland in January, 2013. He had 14 interceptions in 2012, taking two back for touchdowns, as the Soul reached the AFL title game for the first time since 2008.

The Browns gave Richardson an extensive look in spring camps last year and played him all over the defensive secondary and on special teams in four exhibition games. He was released with the final cuts. Ugh.

Richardson spent this spring trying to crack the CFL with Toronto. When the Argonauts released him in June, the Soul scooped him back up.

"At the end of the day, football is a business," said Richardson, who turned 27 in April. "I wasn't trippin' about it. I hit up [Soul general manager Tom Goodhines] to see if I still had an opportunity here. And that's how I came back."

Richardson has started the last two games in place of LaRico Stevenson, who is fighting a groin injury, as the Soul (8-8) makes a desperate push to get into the postseason.

Their clearest path is to win the final two, and get a loss by Tampa Bay - which also is 8-8, but holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.

"The pieces are falling right for us," Soul coach Clint Dolezel said. "We don't care how we get in, as long as we get in. And if we get in, nobody's going to want to play us. I guarantee that."

The Soul plays its final home game on Sunday against San Jose (4 p.m., ESPN3), a traditional AFL power that already has clinched its division and cannot improve its playoff position. On July 26, Philadelphia ends the regular season at Pittsburgh (13-3).

San Jose (12-4) has won 10 of 11, while the Soul has a modest two-game winning streak and is coming off a bye.

The SaberCats handed the Soul its most lopsided defeat of the season; a 70-33 drubbing at the SAP Center back in Week 2 when Richardson was north of the U.S. border and stud offensive lineman Christian Johnson was with the Arizona Cardinals.

"We lost to [San Jose] early on, but that doesn't mean they're going to come here and clean house," Richardson said. "We're ready. I feel like the whole team is ready to prove that they're not just going to come here and run through us."

Tampa Bay has a very losable game at surging Spokane (9-7) on Monday.

Richardson, obviously, would prefer to be in Berea, Ohio, sweating out another NFL training camp with the Browns. But since that wasn't in the cards, he's content with practicing in Voorhees, N.J., and helping the team that gave him his first chance as a professional.

It's not nearly as mainstream or as lucrative as LeBron, but in a way, he has come back home.

"When I was with the Browns in 2013, I still followed the Soul. Definitely," he said, for emphasis. "This is where it all started for me. No matter what happens, I'll never not keep up with them."

Agenda

San Jose ) at Soul (7-8)

When: Sunday, 4 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center (19,500).

TV: None.

On the Web: ESPN3.

About San Jose: Has won 10 of the last 11 ... The Sabercats have the best defense in the league and are particularly hellacious up front. End Joe Sykes, who was the defensive lineman of the year in 2012, and nose guard Jason Stewart present major problems for opposing offenses ... Soul coach Clint Dolezel, who’s not one for hyperbole, called San Jose defensive back Clevan Thomas “the best press guy ever to play Arena football.”

About the Soul: Activated kicker Carlos Martinez from the injured list and waived Jon Striefsky ... Just 3-8 against teams that would be in the playoffs if the postseason began today. San Jose is 10-4 ... The Soul lost to the SaberCats, 70-33, in Week 2. The 70 points was the most allowed by the Soul all year. The 33 scored was the fewest.

Poll position: San Jose is ranked third in the weekly coaches’ poll, behind Arizona and Pittsburgh. The Soul is seventh.

Playoff chase: If the Soul win out, they’ll need one loss by Tampa Bay (8-8) or two by Orlando (9-7). Tampa Bay and Orlando are in the same division. If all three teams finish with the same record, the Soul would not make the playoffs because of tiebreakers.

Remaining skeds: After San Jose, Philadelphia plays at Pittsburgh (13-3) on July 26.

Tampa Bay is at Spokane (9-7) on Monday and hosts Cleveland (15-1) on July 26.

Orlando is at New Orleans (3-13) on Saturday when it should clinch the division. The Predators finish by hosting Arizona (14-2).


On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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