Mike Zimmer had a smile on his face the day the Minnesota Vikings announced they were signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. He was well aware that his team was bringing in one of the most gifted three-technique DTs in the NFL and thus far Richardson has lived up to expectations and then some.
“I’ve been really impressed with Sheldon,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “Not just his play, but the way he’s come in here and try to learn the techniques we are trying to teach him. His professionalism, how he handles himself in the meetings. He’s been really good with everything.”
Richardson is the Vikings’ highest graded player on defense by Pro Football Focus. While he only has one sack, he ranks sixth in the NFL among interior defensive linemen with 22 pressures.
“There has been some plays that a lot of people don’t recognize that I see on tape that I’m like, ‘That is a heck of a play,'” Zimmer said. “Everyone sees the sacks and the hits on the quarterbacks. But they don’t see sometimes when you split the double team and you make a tackle or you run 20 yards down the field to make a tackle. Those things are impressive to me.”
This week, Richardson heads back to the Meadowlands to match up with the team that drafted him in the New York Jets. He was a Pro Bowler in 2014 but was ultimately traded by the Jets to Seattle, where he played last season.
“It’s a business. It’s tough, but I don’t put it on anyone but myself,” Richardson said.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old defensive tackle had several off-field incidents while playing in New York, namely a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and an alleged street racing incident. Less than one year later he was found guilty of reckless driving.
“When Rex [Ryan] was with them I was doing pretty good for the most part making a name for myself in the league and after that, it’s kind of self-inflicted wounds and just me not overcoming my personal battles in life that got me out of there and that changed everything around there,” Richardson said. “That’s pretty much it and I pretty much grew from everywhere. At every phase of my life I grew from it. In Seattle, my time I spent there, I grew from that, not knowing where I was going to be this offseason….battling through that and landing in a good situation (in Minnesota), good team, good family-oriented guys, good coaching staff. Can’t really beat it.”
Richardson signed a one-year deal in Minnesota. If he continues to make a significant impact on the defensive line, the team could aim to sign him to a long-term deal.