- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2017

ASHBURN – Redskins running back Chris Thompson had a hard time going to bed Monday night. He knew that Tuesday morning he’d go into work at Redskins Park and sign an extension, giving him his second contract. He was awake. He still felt like he was dreaming.

The Redskins signed Thompson to a two-year extension Tuesday morning, keeping him with the team through the 2019 season. Thompson will play on the one-year, $2.75 million tender he signed as a restricted free agent this offseason, then his new deal will kick in next year.

For the team, the extension ensures that they keep a valuable weapon on third downs around for at least a few more years. For Thompson, it means he’s achieved something he’s felt at many junctures would never be possible.

“It was a journey,” Thompson said. “I was doubting, I had my doubts, I had them all along, ever since I’ve been in this league.”

Thompson began his NFL career in 2013 when the Redskins drafted him in the fifth round. His first season, he went on injured reserve after Week 10 because he needed shoulder surgery. His second season Thompson got cut during the preseason. He spent 14 weeks on the Redskins practice squad, wondering if he’d ever make a roster again, with only the promise of coach Jay Gruden to hang onto.

“You’re my guy,” Gruden told him. “Just trust in me.”

Thompson did, and Gruden fulfilled his promise by keeping him around through 2015 when Thompson played through a partially-torn labrum. The Redskins commitment to Thompson started to pay off on the field in 2016, when he played a full 16 games for the first time, gained 356 rushing and 349 receiving yards, and played a key role on third downs.

“He is the security blanket that we have offensively, especially on third down in the red zone,” Gruden said. “So, he has done everything exactly right as far as work ethic, preparing, working hard, studying, being productive, dominating a situation that he is asked to play in.”

“That is a big time role for us. He is not a ‘lead down’ back like some of these other big time names, but his role in pro football is critical to the success of the football team.”

Thompson’s contributions haven’t been limited to his performance on the field, either.

“He’s never been late one time to a meeting or workout. He’s a coach’s dream, quite frankly, and you want those guys to succeed because it trickles down in the building,” Gruden said.

Thompson’s role is set to expand this season. He said that both he and the team wanted to get an extension worked out before the start of the regular season, and that real movement toward a deal started about five days ago. This offseason, Thompson spent more time working with the wide receivers on his route running than he has in the past, and he figures to be a useful tool for Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins to work with.

“I mean, the thought of him not being around scares the heck out of me,” Gruden said. “So he’s improved every part of his game, and a lot of these young players, they do that. You either get better or worse, and he’s just one of those guys that continues to work and he’s gotten better at everything.

“His vision on the running game and his pass protection has gotten better and better, and his routes, really, are the most improved, I think, coming out of the backfield. It takes some time for those guys to work their releases and work on the linebackers and run them at the right depth and come out at the right angles and all that stuff, and he’s darn-near perfected it.”

• Nora Princiotti can be reached at nprinciotti@washingtontimes.com.

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