Sheldon Richardson steadied his voice as best he could. Still raw with pain, he spoke of the source of his inspiration — and his anguish — in the aftermath of the Jets’ 24-16 win over Baltimore.
His maternal uncle, Curtis Alonzo Robinson, was killed this past week near their hometown of St. Louis, and after Richardson’s dominant performance Sunday — which included a 9-yard sack of Joe Flacco and a team-leading eight tackles — he paid tribute to his uncle. Before walking out of the locker room at MetLife Stadium, he offered Newsday a glimpse into his emotional week.
Richardson said he learned that his uncle had been fatally shot in the chest after the Jets’ plane touched down following a Monday night loss to the Cardinals in Arizona. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robinson, 52, was shot at 1:10 a.m. Tuesday in University City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. He reportedly was found on a sidewalk and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Mario Richardson, 32 — no relation to Sheldon Richardson — reportedly was arrested Tuesday night and later was charged with Robinson’s murder.
“I played with a heavy heart today. It’s painful,” Richardson said. “I’m close to my family. I take pride in my family.”
He said he was excused from Thursday’s practice because of his grief. “Shout-out to Coach [Todd] Bowles for letting me get my day off. I needed it,” he said. “I couldn’t be around the team. My mood would have brought the team down a lot. I wasn’t really focused.”
Richardson said funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday and that he plans to fly home after team workouts Monday.
Richardson — who credited his uncle with guiding him and the Jets to victory — looked like his old, productive self playing on the line in the absence of defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (inactive with an ankle injury).
“Ya’ll must have forgot,” he said, smiling. “I made the Pro Bowl the year I played three-technique [defensive tackle]. I cause a lot more havoc when I’m closer to the ball. But the way this team is set up, potential-wise, I’ve got to play outside linebacker. We had a guy down today, so I just picked up the slack.”
The 6-3, 294-pound Richardson has been asked to play outside linebacker and middle linebacker in recent weeks, but he said he doesn’t mind. “It’s building my resume. It’s not tough at all,” he said. “I hold my own, whether ya’ll believe it or not. Coaches put that on me, so can’t complain.
“Who you going to sit?” he asked, referring to their stacked line with Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon. “It’s just that simple. I’m the one capable enough of doing that. I’m a team player. Whether people believe it or not. I don’t mind doing the trash work and letting my guys eat off of that.”