Published: Sep 03, 2012 12:07 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 04, 2012 6:31 AM EDT

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Trent Richardson took his biggest step yet toward playing in Cleveland's opener.

The rookie running back returned to practice Monday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery on Aug. 9, a strong sign he will play Sunday against Philadelphia.

With his dreadlocks flowing out of his orange helmet, Richardson took some snaps with Cleveland's first-team offense during the portion of practice open to the media. He had a black sleeve on his left knee, which has been operated on twice since he helped Alabama win a national championship in January.

Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in April's draft, had been doing rehab, including some light contact work, behind the scenes. He rode a stationary bike at the start of practice on Saturday, and afterward coach Pat Shurmur indicated that as long as Richardson could practice this week he would play against the Eagles.

Shurmur pulled Richardson close for a brief chat during one drill as the running backs caught passes. Moments later, running backs coach Gary Brown called out a play and quizzed Richardson on his assignment.

Richardson had torn cartilage removed last month by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews.

Although Richardson was not on the practice field for weeks, Browns general manager Tom Heckert said the 22-year-old did not have any setbacks and said the team is not concerned about him being out of shape. Heckert said the Browns would be smart about Richardson's playing time and not overload him in Week 1.

Richardson rushed for 3,130 yards and 35 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

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