RICHMOND—During training camp in 2013, Richard Crawford was carving himself a nice niche with the Redskins. His performance as a punt returner during the 2012 playoff run gave him the upper hand at that spot. The 2012 seventh-round draft pick out of SMU also was competing for time as the dime defensive back.
But his season came to an abrupt and early end. He was returning a punt during a preseason game and while he was fighting for a few additional, meaningless yards, he tore multiple ligaments in his knee. That put him on injured reserve for the season. Crawford was unable to participate in any OTAs or in minicamp. His status going into training camp was uncertain.
However, when the first practice of camp rolled around on Thursday Crawford came out on the field and he was not wearing a brace or even a compression sleeve on his knee.
In not using any support on the joint, Crawford was following the method used by a running back who did a particularly good job in rehabbing his torn ACL. “What I did was, I saw what AP [Adrian Peterson of the Vikings] did, I looked it up. Pretty much he just didn’t use anything, that’s what I went at so that’s how I feel right now, I feel really good, almost normal.”
He also had a much closer source to go to for support in the rehab process, Robert Griffin III.
“Robert kind of went through the same injury so I looked at him, he gave me a lot of pointers, said Crawford. “That’s why my recovery went so well.”
He impressed Jay Gruden during the rehab process. “He’s worked really hard,” said Gruden. “He’s one of those guys who has worked extremely hard with Larry Hess, our trainer and he’s done a great job of getting back.”
Crawford would like to go back to his role as the punt returner but whether he can do that or not he still is willing to contribute on special teams. “It just depends on what [special teams] coach [Ben] Kotwica wants me to do. I’m also willing to go down and be a gunner, kickoff, I like to tackle people so whatever he wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The landscape at cornerback has changed some since Crawford’s injury. The team added free agent veteran Tracy Porter and drafted Bashaud Breeland in the fourth round. They also brought in wide receiver Andre Roberts, who has plenty of experience returning punts. This does not particularly bother Crawford.
“Competition is always going to be there,” he said. “It’s the NFL, you’re going to see the best of the best at all times. I’m kind of happy they did bring them in because you learn a lot from those guys and I’m becoming a better player myself. I’m just trying to be the best I can be and help this team win.”
Gruden isn’t sure what to think of Crawford yet. “I haven’t see Richard play since during the OTAs he wasn’t available so really my first look at him has been today and yesterday,” he said. “I really liked his quickness in there.”
The head coach said that there is some “major competition” at cornerback and that Crawford is in the mix there. We will see how it turns out.