Richardson looking to grow, improve in his second CFL season

Steven Richardson hopes to one day make a living hunkering down in front of a computer and putting his software engineering expertise to use building websites.

In the meantime, the gritty defensive tackle will continue to make a living hunkering down in the middle of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive line and putting his brute strength to use terrorizing offensive backfields all over the Canadian Football League.

The Bombers officially signed the 24-year-old Chicago product to a one-year extension on Friday, just days ahead of the opening of the CFL free agent market next week.

“It’s been a really long time,” began Richardson, when asked to detail what he’s been doing since the 2019 Grey Cup victory. “I’ve been working out and just trying to figure out a Plan B. That’s the main thing the pandemic really has done for me. I actually started to teach myself code because that’s what I wanted to learn – that’s been my little pandemic project.

“Aside from that I’ve been working out and trying to stay in shape because we really didn’t know when the (2020) season was going to happen or if it was going to happen.”

Richardson’s 2019 season – his first in the CFL – could be described as a bit of a revelation. The University of Minnesota product had been out of the game for eight months following his release by the Los Angeles Chargers when he arrived at Bombers training camp in 2019, but immediately impressed as a quick study alongside Jake Thomas and Drake Nevis in the heart of the defensive line.

He dressed for every game in 2019, making 14 starts, and finished with 25 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss. With Nevis having signed with the Toronto Argonauts, Richardson’s role could increase even further in ’21.

“I need to get better at finishing plays,” said Richardson. “I had a big eye-opener in my first season. I kind of slept on Canadian football and after my first season I think it’s really, really good football and I would love to bring more attention to it.

“But if you were to watch me play or watch my film I was in the backfield all the time. Now I need to get the quarterback down all the time when I’m back there. It’s finishing those things. Even though being in the quarterback’s face is always a good thing, getting him down when he still has the ball is an even better thing.”

Last month Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters said the club and Richardson were ‘quite a ways apart’ and ‘nowhere near in the ballpark’ in contract negotiations. Yet as Richardson outlined now that the deal is done, that didn’t have anything to do with his desire to leave the organization, but explore what might be out there.

“It was my first free agency,” he said. “I’ve never been through that process and I thought that it would be kind of interesting. It was actually pretty stressful, I’m not going to lie. I thought free agency and that kind of stuff would be kinda fun and it actually was to see where I’m at in my career. But I don’t think we were a way off. We came to a pretty good agreement, I believe.”

The Bombers’ defensive line remains a cohesive unit and with more action together – remember, Richardson and Thiadric Hansen were CFL rookies, while Willie Jefferson was in his first year with the club – there is the belief they could become even more of a force this season.

And especially now that Richardson has opted to return.

“Me and the D-line still have a group message and we still talk,” Richardson explained. “I was the only D-lineman that wasn’t coming back, that still didn’t have a contract. So they were always coming at me about putting the final piece together. I would definitely say coming back to my old team was definitely a big one for me.”

BLUE NOTES: The Bombers have added to their defensive backfield depth with the signing of import cornerback Deatrick Nichols.

Nichols (5-10, 190, South Florida) spent part of 2020 with the Miami Dolphins after playing with the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL and leading the league in interceptions with three before the season was cancelled. Nichols also played two games with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.

He finished his collegiate career at South Florida starting his final three seasons and registering 175 tackles and 11 interceptions – third-most in school history – in 50 games.

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