- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2014

For weeks, Chris Thompson would show up at Redskins Park and walk downstairs to the locker room, where he’d pull out the stool in front of a beaten-up metal contraption, put his things away and sit down.

On the top shelf of that locker, affixed at eye level, was a name tag with Thompson’s last name and his jersey number. Only Thompson, who wore No. 35 in his first offseason with the team and No. 25 since the start of his rookie season, had No. 37 printed after his name.

“The number they want me to wear when they call me up,” Thompson would say.

Weeks went by, and then months, and Thompson remained on the Washington Redskins‘ practice squad, no roster move in sight. Finally, on Thursday, he received the news he was waiting for, with the Redskins adding him to the 53-man roster in place of injured rookie left tackle Morgan Moses.

After 13 games on the outside, Thompson will be able to play Sunday when the Redskins face the New York Giants on the road.

“All these weeks, just being on practice squad and stuff, I’ve been able to really get myself together,” Thompson said. “I’m thankful that they even kept me here from the beginning. It’s all been beneficial to me.”

A fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2013, Thompson played in four games for the Redskins during his rookie season, nearly exclusively as a punt and kickoff returner. All the while, Thompson dealt with a nagging soreness in his left shoulder, and an examination later revealed he had torn the labrum, an injury that would require surgery and prematurely end his season.

Thompson’s inability to stay healthy — he broke two vertebrae during his junior season, and tore the ACL in his left knee as a senior — led to the Redskins‘ decision after the preseason ended to waive Thompson and later add him to the practice squad. If he could make it through the season, his reward would be a return to the active roster.

“He’s done a great job as far as being attentive in meetings, and we’ve thrown in out there the last couple weeks and tried to give him some meaningful reps in practice, and he’s done a good job,” said coach Jay Gruden. “He’s answered the bell. So, come game day, we’re excited to see what he can do and put him out there, try to get him out in space a little bit and see what he can do. He’s a dynamic player, and hopefully, we can see a lot of him these last three weeks.”

Thompson figures to see time Sunday as a kickoff returner, having received some opportunities to do so during practice this past week. Wide receiver Andre Roberts, who has held both return roles since the season began, has gained just 22.7 yards per attempt, which ranks 16th of the 19 players who have averaged at least one return per game this season.

And, with running back Roy Helu, the team’s third-down back, out because of turf toe, Thompson could see some snaps on offense as well. Lauded for his speed, Thompson could serve in that change-of-pace role Helu has filled, though, at 5-foot-8 and 193 pounds, pass protection has always been an issue.

“I think the first thing that you have to be able to do is recognize the issues — ‘When am I going to be used? What are my pick-up responsibilities?’” said offensive coordinator Sean McVay. “And then once you do that, being able to be decisive, use the right technique that [running backs coach Randy] Jordan preaches to those guys — where you’re square, you’ve got your weight underneath you, you stick your face into people and be physical at the point of attack.”

The prolonged time on the practice squad, Thompson said, has allowed him to improve as a runner, and the inconsistent quarterback play has given him the opportunity to work with all three players.

He’s improved to a point to where when he watches film of his performances from last season, he can easily spot the things he was doing wrong.

“Totally different, man,” Thompson said. “I think I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was before last year. I was coming off that knee injury, too, so I was still thinking about that a couple of times when I got here.

“But I feel a lot better now, so I’m just ready to go.”

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