One of the most anticipated position battles of the offseason figures to be for the two running back positions behind Alfred Morris, the Redskins’ No. 1 ball carrier.
But the competition might not begin in earnest until training camp because of Chris Thompson’s knee injury. Thompson, the team’s fifth round draft pick last month, is making strides in his recovery from reconstructive surgery on his left ACL, but the Florida State product said he doesn’t anticipate being cleared for contact until training camp.
“Actually, I’m sprinting and doing a lot of cutting and moving around,” said Thompson, who watched from the sideline during last weekend’s rookie minicamp.
The challenge now, Thompson added, is rebuilding his confidence in the joint.
“Now it’s pretty much the mental part of it,” he said. “That’s my biggest issue.”
When OTAs begin May 20, Thompson said he’ll still be rehabbing and, while he may be able to participate in some individual drills, he doesn’t expect to be cleared for team workouts.
“I’ll probably be able to do a little bit,” he said. “But for the most part, they are not going to release me and let me run wild until training camp. It’s tough, just being out here seeing these guys practicing. But I just have to be patient because I know my time will come.”
Bouncing back from injury, though, is nothing new for Thompson. In 2011, he suffered compression fractures to two vertebrae in his back. That injury, he reiterated, is no longer a concern.
“It’s not an issue an at all,” he said. “Doctors told me it shouldn't happen again, so I’m not even worried about it anymore.”
Right now, Thompson said, his primary concern is getting his knee healthy so he can secure a spot on the 53-man roster. Prior to tearing his ACL, the shifty, 5 foot 8, 187-pound tailback said his best 40-yard dash time was clocked in the 4.3-second range. Thompson was also ranked second in the ACC in rushing yards with 687 on 91 carries (7.5 yards per average) when he went down against Miami on Oct. 20.
Because of the injury, he wasn’t certain he would hear his name called on draft day. So when Redskins running backs coach Bobby Turner phoned him, he wasn’t just elated, he was grateful, as well.
“It means a lot to me for them to draft me when I’m injured,” Thompson said. “They could have easily picked me up as a free agent. For me, that just pushes me even more to get back on the field healthy."
On the night Thompson was drafted, he told local beat reporters that he believed his skill set would fit well within Coach Mike Shanahan’s offense. Now that he’s seen the playbook, he sure that he’ll be comfortable in the scheme.
“A lot of the plays that we went through so far, it’s stuff that I did at Florida State,” he said. “I feel very comfortable with it, and I’m just ready to get out there on the field now and show these coaches. I’m real comfortable, especially with the outside zone stuff—that’s pretty much what I do. It’s second nature to me now.”
Whenever he does get back on the field, Thompson said he’s looking forward to the competition. In addition to Morris and Helu, the Redskins’ backfield currently includes Evan Royster, seventh round pick Jawan Jamison and Keiland Williams. Shanahan kept three tailbacks last season.
“Honestly,” Thompson said, “that’s the fun part of it – competing against the guys. If they are practicing at the top of their ability, it makes me play even harder. And, at the same time, we’re getting each other better.”