The Colorado offense has missed wide receiver Paul Richardson more in the past three weeks than the U.S. economy misses the 1990s.

The Buffs' most dynamic playmaker has had to stand on the sidelines with a sprained knee and watch three humiliating losses to Stanford, Washington and Oregon.

But there is finally at least a sliver of hope he might be available to play this week on the road against No. 21 Arizona State.

Prior to Tuesday's practice, Richardson said he is feeling much better and has started running again. He said he is not 100 percent healthy and doubts that he will play against the Sun Devils, but he didn't completely rule it out.

Paul Richardson makes a catch against Washington State. Cliff Grassmick / October 1, 2011
Paul Richardson makes a catch against Washington State. Cliff Grassmick / October 1, 2011 ( Cliff Grassmick )

"I would love to play against him this week," Richardson said when asked for his thoughts on ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict. "Is it 100 percent certain right now? No. I'm pretty much just going through the motions right now to see how my leg feels. Right now the decision is that I'm not playing. That's pretty much the closest to a set decision that there is."If I do get the opportunity to compete, I'm going to try to have fun, but I don't think I am."

Despite missing the past three games, Richardson remains the Buffs' leading receiver this season.

That fact alone demonstrates how big a factor he is for the Buffs, as well as how desperate coaches are to get him back.

Richardson was hurt in practice leading up to the Stanford game earlier this month. At that point, he had made 29 catches for 479 yards and five touchdowns in five games. He was one of the leading receivers in a Pac-12 Conference loaded with talent at the position.

If he doesn't return this week for the Sun Devils, his return for the Nov. 4 home game against USC is a near certainty.

Sitting out has been difficult and a learning experience.

"It hurts," Richardson said. "I don't think there is a better way to describe the feeling. It's very painful. I talk to my family a lot, well, I talk to the women of my family a lot more than anything. They've just been trying to encourage me to be positive and not to worry about my injury, just worry about my recovery.

"It takes a lot out of me because my competitive spirit wants me to just get back on the field and act like nothing is wrong with me, but if my body is not reacting, then I can't do it. It's painful just watching when I feel like I could help in any way, whether it be a block or whatever. Vocally I've been doing whatever I can, but I feel like me actually being in the mix with them would actually make a difference."

Tebow time

It was only a matter of time before a Denver television station made it up to Boulder to get Embree's take on Tim Tebow. And the former Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins assistant was happy to answer the question.

"I'm just glad that's going on because that's been a lot less questions for me," Embree said with a smile.

In case you've been living under a rock not located anywhere near Bristol, Conn., or the state of Colorado: Tebow led the Broncos to an 18-15 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in a game Denver trailed 15-0 late in the fourth quarter.

"That's what he does. It may not happen how you draw it up, but there's something to be said about guys that find a way to win," Embree said. "That's what he is, that's what he's done, it's not luck anymore. He finds a way to win. ...

"He's one of those few guys that implements his will on his teammates, and he's a quarterback. That's good for them."