Sometimes, Sheldon Richardson scares himself.
His potential is so high, even he’s not sure where its apex lies.
“I don’t put limitations on myself. I let you all do that,” the Jets defensive tackle said, laughing during an interview with Newsday on Wednesday. “I have no idea what my ceiling is. I might be scared to reach my potential.”
A playoff berth? Another Pro Bowl? An All Pro selection? No doubt, they’re all on Richardson’s 2016 to-do list.
“We ain’t here to be second to no one,” he said of the Jets. “So other than that, same dominant play for me.”
Richardson is lighter these days, down from 320 pounds to 309. And that will only help to increase his productivity, said coach Todd Bowles. “Sheldon’s a good athlete, he holds it well and he can move, but being a little bit lighter will play in his benefit,” Bowles said, adding that the team and Richardson agreed it was best for him to drop some pounds.
But there’s another weight still hanging over him and the team.
Richardson is facing another possible league suspension stemming from his July 2015 arrest in Missouri. The 2013 first-round pick had been facing five misdemeanor charges — including resisting arrest, which carried a sentence of up to a year in jail — after he was arrested for driving up to 143 mph on a Missouri interstate highway following a chase with police last offseason.
Though he avoided jail time by entering a guilty plea in January, Richardson could be suspended for a second time by the NFL, this time for violating its personal conduct policy.
On July 2 — just 12 days before he was arrested with a 12-year-old boy, a strong odor of marijuana and a legally owned, but loaded handgun in his Bentley — the league announced Richardson would miss the first four regular-season games of 2015 because of a second failed drug test (marijuana).
But Richardson said he doesn’t spend time thinking about being suspended again.
“I’ve prepared my mind and my body as if I’m playing Week One,” he said, during a quiet moment at his locker.
In an October 2015 interview with Newsday, he called 2015 the “hardest year of my life and I’m trying not to be this low again.” He divulged that on the heels of the Jets’ 4-12 finish in 2014, his close friend, Dorance Harvey, was fatally shot in St. Louis on Jan. 30. Depression soon followed and Richardson began seeing the team therapist twice a week.
He’s since acknowledged how dangerous his reckless behavior had been and now he’s embracing a fresh start and a new season.
“It’s positive vibes,” Richardson said. “I’m past that. I’m past that phase in my life. Can’t really complain.”
Referring to the possibility of a second suspension, he said: “If it happens . . . when it comes, it comes. Some people tell me it’s all a matter of time. My agent told me ‘no news is good news.’ So until we get word of it, I’m just going to leave it at that.”
So, for now, he remains focused on the future — and that includes playoff games, another Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro first-team selection.
“All that. All that comes with it,” said Richardson, who had eight sacks in 2014 and three less last season despite missing five games (one due to injury). “I think every year I’ve played in the NFL has been an All-Pro year.”