Washington's third-down running back has dealt with a turbulent NFL career while overcoming his own self doubts. Now he is thriving in his fourth year with the Redskins.
In the NFL, change is inevitable. Most of the time, change comes at the benefit of player, whether it be to maximize a certain skill or fill a need for the team.
Chris Thompson faced his fair share of change after leaving Florida State for the NFL Draft. When he wasn't battling injuries while playing for the Seminoles, Thompson was out on the field as much as possible.
However, two season-ending injuries in his junior and senior years hurt his draft stock. Once the Washington Redskins selected Thompson in the fifth round in 2013, it was clear his role in the game would soon change.
"I think for me, it was more mental than anything. I had to learn over time. It wasn't easy," Thompson said. "It's something that I have to get used to, but over time I started to get more and more comfortable. Once I got comfortable with myself being in that role, then I was able to execute better."
Thompson's new role includes being a primarily third-down back in charge of giving the offense the extra push when it matters most along with returning kicks. This new position came after years of being jostled around the roster, going back and forth to the practice squad before finally signing an extension with the team in early September.
In Week 1, Thompson scored Washington's only offensive touchdown of the game off a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins. In Week 2, Thompson's role became paramount when fellow running back Rob Kelley went down with an injury during the third quarter. While rookie Samaje Perine took most of the handoffs, it was Thompson who put up the big numbers. On just three carries, he scored two touchdowns and amassed 77 yards. He also made contributions in the passing game with three catches for 29 yards.
"Chris is one of our best players and is a tremendous asset to our offense because he is so versatile," Cousins said. "He can pass protect. He can catch the football. He can run good routes. He is a smart player. He is a good teammate. He runs the ball well. He can hit the home run. He can make people miss."
Thompson's day was not completely highlight filled, however. Some costly and avoidable mistakes kept him from turning in an almost spotless game. Thompson failed to haul in what would have been a 60-yard touchdown pass from Cousins early in the second half.
"I'm not going to lie to you, on the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play," Thompson said. "My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball."
Thompson said one of the reasons he was bitter was that it kept Cousins from breaking 200 yards passing. He said with that one catch, he could have silenced those who question how balanced the Redskins' offense is. Cousins, meanwhile, said when a play falls through, it's never just one player's fault.
"I didn't give him a chance to really catch it," Cousins said. "I rifled it and needed to just throw a more catchable ball. So, we are all being critical of ourselves and finding ways that we individually can play better so that collectively as a group we can have improvement going forward."
Thompson said he often thinks this way after a costly mistake in a game. He said it can be both a blessing and a curse; always evaluating his game and trying to improve, but sometimes spends too much time dwelling on his failures.
"Yeah, and people say that I'm too hard on myself, but that's just me. That's who I am. There's a lot of things I can go and look back on," Thompson said. "It's something that, as a human, you have to let it go, you have to move on, but for me, that motivates me to be better on the next play moving forward."