National Football League
Inside Colts QB Anthony Richardson’s rehab, preparations for Year 2
National Football League

Inside Colts QB Anthony Richardson’s rehab, preparations for Year 2

Updated Apr. 18, 2024 8:12 p.m. ET

After suffering the shoulder injury 173 snaps into his rookie season, after committing to the season-ending surgery that was best for his long-term health, Anthony Richardson responded to the lengthy journey ahead as many high-level athletes would. 

He wanted to know when rehab would start. When he could be back with his team to stay involved. When he could start throwing again.

But as the rehab process began, what stood out was his understanding of throwing biomechanics and what he should be feeling. 

With various shoulder exercises, his questions were pointed: "So I need to feel this so that I could get back to this position and throw it?" he'd asked. 


He was honest about when he felt his shoulder was doing something that it wasn't supposed to — little insights that go a long way. 

"That dialogue with a patient is what makes the rehab process really good," Tom Gormely, a high-performance specialist who led Richardson's recovery regimen in Jacksonville, Florida., told FOX Sports. "He wants to put it all together. He doesn't want to just be like, ‘Alright, I'll just do this just to do it.'"

That attention to detail has led Richardson to where he is now. 

Colts coach Shane Steichen confirmed Tuesday that last year's No. 4 overall pick is in a "really good spot" and that he is "good to go" for spring practices. Though Richardson will be monitored, it's the first step toward a season in which Indianapolis expects to be in legitimate contention for an AFC South title and playoff spot. 

The team's lack of external moves in free agency (a sharp contrast to other teams in the division) and significant investment in its own players — the Colts awarded more than $225 million in contract value to in-house free agents and extension-eligible players — are clear signs that the organization believes it has a strong roster. Last season, with their hopeful franchise quarterback playing only four games, the Colts were just one game outside of the playoffs and boasted a top-10 scoring offense. 

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"AR is going to play all 17 games. I'm going to put that out there and more because we're going to keep going," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said Tuesday. "One thing that I have noticed is his confidence is coming back. Obviously, he got hurt and had to watch all the other young QBs like C.J. [Stroud] and Bryce [Young] and Will [Levis] play. 

"I can see it in his eyes that he is ready, and he's ready for people to start talking about him, too."

In the weeks leading up to the Colts' offseason program, Richardson operated at the level of an NFL offseason regimen. According to Gormely and private quarterback coach Will Hewlett, both of whom trained Richardson privately and in conjunction with the Colts, the QB ramped up his workload while still managing the volume and intensity around his shoulder. He reached four days a week of speed training, lifting, arm care and throwing. His drops, pre-throw placement of his lower body and consistency in second-progression throws were among the focus areas in on-field work, Hewlett said.

It was a gradual progression to reach that point, though. It took Richardson four months to start throwing. Every rep was tracked. The volume and intensity of various throws were measured. 

"Approximately 10% per week increase," Gormely said. "You want to be cautious about going over that in terms of returning-to-throw programs." 

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Gormely and Hewlett worked with Richardson last year in the pre-draft process. The difference this go-round was his understanding of NFL offenses and defenses. The understanding of his own offense and progressions were helpful as his on-field training could ramp up. 

That's not unique, of course; the longer a quarterback is in the NFL, the more he understands his own system. But Richardson's precise nature was evident. 

Gormely has some of his NFL clients at CORTX Sports Performance lead board work with the college quarterbacks getting ready for the draft, to prepare them for what to expect on the field as a professional.

Richardson was confident and engaging in his sessions, explaining "crazy" details. 

"His notes behind his offense, he's got like five different colors written out perfectly neat," Gormely said. "Redraws of the plays by hand on notebooks. Sheets after sheets after sheets of paper. He's incredibly detail-oriented, incredibly neat. That allows him, I think, to process the game well and then when he teaches it back, he has a really good understanding of what he's been taught."

Hewlett added that Richardson is one of the smartest quarterbacks he's ever worked with. 

"There was just an ease in which he was able to explain and go through the notes he took during the season of breaking down plays and just talking through things," Hewlett said. "It was really, really impressive."

At his end-of-season press conference in January, Richardson was asked how he's changed the most from when he was preparing for the draft a year ago. He mentioned his attitude. 

His focus has increased.

"I always attacked the day before I even got here," Richardson said. "But now, it's different because you never know when you're not going to be out there on the field." 

With Richardson's detailed nature, the sky could be the limit as he makes his return.

"There will still be the ups and downs, but we truly appreciate the level of the combination of athleticism and intelligence. It's like not fair that he has what he has," Hewlett said. "You saw the flashes last year, just unbelievable playmaking ability. But there's levels to his game that I think that he hasn't been able to open up yet in terms of types of throws and the anticipatory side of the game, which is going to grow. He's so elite in so many categories that he's able to get away with stuff, but he's truly a student of the game.

"If he continues to learn how to manipulate defenses and types of throws and types of balls, we might end up seeing stuff that we've never seen before from that position just because he's got such a wide skill set," he added. "So I'm really excited to see where it'll go."

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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