- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 14, 2016

In a few weeks, Jamison Crowder will go back to Duke, the place where he forged his skills as a wide receiver and punt returner.

He’ll work out with former coaches and teammates, but first, he’ll rest. It’s been a long season for the Washington Redskins’ rookie, a seemingly never-ending run that had him zig-zagging from his final year at Duke, which ended at the Sun Bowl, to the Senior Bowl, to last Sunday’s 35-18 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

When the Redskins drafted Crowder in the fourth round, his role as a punt returner was carved out for him. His role as a slot receiver was not, but he quickly snatched it from veteran Andre Roberts in October.

Crowder went on to play 68.5 of the Redskins’ offensive snaps, the second-most among a rookie wide receiver behind the Oakland Raiders’ Amari Cooper. Crowder’s 59 receptions were also second-most among rookies at the position, behind Cooper, and his 604 receiving yards ranked fourth.

“It’s been a long, long, long season for me,” Crowder said. “Starting in January after the bowl game and all the way to now, it’s been a long year. But, I made it through successfully, no major injuries, blessed that I’m healthy. I’m taking the time to rest and get my body right.

“Even in college, I felt there was a certain point in the season where my body felt tired and worn down, but yeah, the last few weeks I worked through, kept grinding through the physical breakdown. My body felt like it was coming around these last two or three weeks. Right now, I’m just trying to rest up, get stronger in the offseason and come back better. I hate that we lost, I really hate that. Right now, it’s a little bit of relief I can catch my breath and get my body right.”

Crowder, soft-spoken and humble, said his season was just “OK.” He emerged as a complementary target for quarterback Kirk Cousins, rounding out an arsenal of tight end Jordan Reed and veteran wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.

His work as a wide receiver overshadowed his punt return skills, something that wasn’t exactly expected when the Redskins drafted him in May. At Duke, Crowder returned 65 punts for 869 yards and four touchdowns. In his first season with the Redskins, he returned 30 punts for 158 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per attempt — the worst among qualified returners.

“I wasn’t frustrated. It is what it is,” Crowder said. “I could’ve done a better job back there. It was a little give and take. But, I wasn’t frustrated at all. Just tried to do my job and that was pretty much it. I think I’m a lot better player, still got a long way to go. In a way, I know I could’ve been a better playmaker in that area. That’s one aspect I’ll try to get better at in the offseason: See the things I could’ve done better to get the offense better field position.”

• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@washingtontimes.com.

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