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Jets' Sheldon Richardson refuses to believe season is hopeless

New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson celebrates

New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson celebrates with teammates after sacking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for a safety during the first half of an NFL game, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Admittedly, it was a hopeless situation, seeing Sheldon Richardson, the Jets' 6-3, 294-pound defensive lineman, trying to catch Jarius Wright, the Vikings' 5-10, 180-pound wide receiver, who had a head of steam. The thing is, Richardson does not believe there is such a thing as a hopeless situation.

"That's just me," Richardson said Monday, recalling the 87-yard touchdown play that ended the Jets' 30-24 overtime loss in Minnesota Sunday. "I don't see the need to give up on the play. He could have done anything, he could have celebrated early, anything like that. You never know.

"I had an angle. I could have dove, I just couldn't get to him. My legs were kind of shot to the end. He just got past me," said the second-year player, who had another outstanding game that featured three sacks, one for a safety.

Richardson has not given up on making the Pro Bowl despite his team's 2-11 record. He hasn't given up, period, in a season that has "hopeless" written all over it.

"This is a team-oriented game, but this is a business in the end. I've still got something to play for," he said.

And what might that be? "The almighty dollar. That's what drives this league. It is what it is. I don't want to sound selfish or anything, but in the end, you've got to get yours," Richardson said in the locker room at the Jets' training facility.

So he earns points for candor, acknowledging that he sees a golden lining in a bleak year. Except that his coach doesn't believe a word of it. Rex Ryan said that the only green that touches Richardson's heart while he is on the field is the color of the Jets' jerseys.

"I know there's a comment where he said it's just about the money or something right now. That's not this kid," Ryan said. "He's anything but that. I think he thinks it sounds good, but he's much more than that. He gives for himself, he gives for his teammates. This is the way he plays."

Geno Smith, whom Richardson befriended during pre-draft workouts last year, said, "He's not afraid to strut his stuff and we enjoy that about him because he backs it up on the field."

The lineman verbally stood up for the quarterback Monday, noting that fans are "giving him the boot." Richardson had his own way to describe those people: "They're quitters. You go all in with a guy, why not give him his chance?"

Ryan grinned when he heard about that, too. "He will take the bullet himself. There may be a few more bullets coming at him than he thinks, but I hope not. I hope they know his heart is in the right spot and he just believes in his teammates."

The coach believes Richardson would have more gaudy statistics if only the Jets didn't ask him to do so many different -- and unselfish -- chores in their defensive schemes. Plus he hopes that the coaching fraternity does not hold the Jets' record against Richardson in the Pro Bowl voting.

As for chasing Wright on Sunday, Ryan said, "At one point, I thought he was actually going to make that tackle. On a receiver."

He wasn't the only one. Wright, the swift receiver, said after the game, "I saw that 91 was the only one that really had a chance. I just tried to speed up a little bit. That big guy can run."

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