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INDIANAPOLIS – Leave it to the quarterback opposite Anthony Richardson for some pretty sound advice as the rookie’s debut ended on Sunday.

Trevor Lawrence had just seen Richardson’s first NFL start end a few plays before the final gun, with No. 5 exiting the game after taking a big hit while scrambling with less than a minute to go.

As the two faces of the franchise met at midfield after the game, Lawrence had some advice for Richardson.

“The only thing I told him after the game was “Great game,” Lawrence shared after the game. “He made some unbelievable plays, but just try to protect yourself. The hits add up in this league and they are a little different than in college. So I just told him to protect himself.”

“I’m excited to watch his career unfold. I think he’s going to be a great player and obviously we’ll see him again later in the season, but that was my only message to him, really, protect yourself. It’s a long season, and I think he’s going to be a great player.”

Given Richardson got banged up in the first half on Sunday (a knee bruise after the first rush of his career) and then again in the second half (taking a shot to the shoulder area which ended his day after receiving some on-field attention from the team’s medical staff), it’s worth pointing this out.

Obviously, it’s vital Richardson stays healthy this season.

He badly needs reps like he got on Sunday—69 offensive snaps, locked in a one-possession game against a legit AFC playoff team, having to react to the unscripted nature of an NFL game.

Richardson becoming an elite quarterback runner in this league is quite possible. There’s not much debate there.

What’s unknown though is can he prove himself as a consistent enough passer, with big air plays sprinkled in.

What’s also unknown is how Richardson will react when the pressure rises within a game, like when the Colts were down three points with 5 minutes to go on Sunday.

All of this is why Lawrence’s message to Richardson means so much.

This season is all about evaluating Richardson.

While Richardson’s legs are a huge part of his game, it’s not where the true evaluation is needed.

Richardson’s debut on Sunday was an interesting one.

He actually showed the ability to be a more consistent passer, but didn’t offer the big play arm that is believed to be there.

At times, it seemed the Colts offense was a one-man show with Richardson having to do much of the creating.

Short-yardage and third down/fourth down situations were issues for the entire offensive unit.

And it seemed like Richardson became a different QB once Indy took a late third- quarter lead. The rookie misfired routinely after that—which was not the case in the first 2.5 quarters—capped by a game-sealing interception as the offense went five straight series without a first down.

A mid fourth-quarter lead against one of the best teams in the AFC had quickly evaporated.

Following his first ever NFL start, Richardson summed up his big takeaway succinctly, yet accurately.

“Every possession matters, every down matters, every play matters,” No. 5 said. “You can’t just take off one play because you think it’s all right. You can’t take off one quarter because you think you’ve got the lead and think you’re going to get the W.

“Every play, every detail, everything matters in this league, so that’s one thing I took away for sure.”

For a debut, Richardson largely stayed away from procedural issues or pre-snap penalties.

There were plenty of moments for Colts fans to be hopeful, bad still reminders of this is a 21-year-old starting his 14th game since high school.

Sunday marked the start of a journey.

And 2023 is all about Richardson staying healthy, exposing himself to all the things QB life in the NFL is like Monday-Saturday, and especially on Sunday.

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