Running back Chris Thompson's breakout season was cut short due to injury in 2017, but he's on pace to return by training camp and continue the momentum he started this past season.
In a season of extreme highs and extreme lows, running back Chris Thompson emerged from the 2017 season carrying the same humbled temperament he's always had in his life.
His final chat with the media didn't come by his locker and it wasn't around his teammates. Thompson leaned on crutches instead of his own two legs and tried to explain the emotions of his roller-coaster season, one that began with eye-popping plays and ended prematurely on the back of a cart in the middle of the team's matchup with the Saints.
Thompson, chosen for the Redskins Media Good Guy Award following the end of the season, thanked the media for their coverage of him as one of the most approachable and thoughtful players to interview on the team. Then, naturally, catering to the concerns of those in front of him, he addressed the status of his broken leg, the surgery that followed and the rehab process to come.
"It's been good," Thompson said of the rehab process. "It's been a little boring because I can't do much right now but play video games, which I thought I would really enjoy but it sucks now after doing it for a month and a half. But the body is feeling good. It's a slow process, no need to rush or force anything."
Thompson's breakout season was disrupted against the Saints in November when he fractured his fibula on a freak play near the sideline. He was placed on Injured Reserve that week and for the remainder of the season, the offense struggled to operate at the same level without its arguable MVP.
In 10 games this year, Thompson nearly equated some of his numbers from the entirety of last season. He rushed for 294 yards with an impressive 6.4 yards per attempt and two touchdowns, often used on third down draw plays to erase large deficits. He did most of his damage through the air though, catching 39 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns – one of his most memorable moments including a 74-yard screen pass against the Raiders.
For some perspective, Thompson finished first in the NFL in average yards per catch amongst running backs (13.1), tied for fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns amongst running backs (4) and fifth in the NFL in receptions of 25-plus yards amongst running backs (5). This, all while missing the team's six final games of the season.
"Chris is an impact player," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He had almost 600 yards receiving in 10 games. You know, that's hard to replace. Not to mention his rushing yards and his ability to pick up blitzes. He's a matchup nightmare. Jordan Reed was another issue with third down. Our issues were on third down a lot, and those were our two best third-down options usually. It had an impact, but [it] gave [players] like Kapri and Byron Marshall a chance to do what they can do, and Vernon Davis more [opportunities] and Niles Paul and it gave the younger receivers opportunities. We weren't good enough down the stretch on third down obviously and it's something we have to look at moving forward, but we definitely did miss those two guys."
The Redskins knew what they had in Thompson before the regular season began and signed him to a multi-year contract extension. It represented a commitment to a running back whose career began on Washington's practice squad and progressed onto the active roster as one of its most important players.
"I just think for me, this year, I just started feeling more comfortable in this organization, being in this building," Thompson said. "Everything was different for me this year. I look back at when I was in college, I look back when I was in high school, just the last couple days of highlights and everything and how I played and how it pretty much always took me two years to really start to get in a groove and get in a good groove. That's pretty much happened with me here. It's all about a guy feeling comfortable and feeling confident out there on the field. For me, it took me a while. It took me four years, which is a long time. I had to fight some injuries and had to go through a lot of adversity to get here. I'm feeling good and I'm feeling comfortable in my abilities in this offense that I'm in now. Hopefully, it's just up from here."
Thompson said the rehab process will continue to be slow into the offseason and expects his recovery time to take four to six months. As of now, Thompson is on pace to return by training camp.
"As players, we're known to try and rush and get back on that field as quick as we possibly can," Thompson said. "We have some time before training camp and OTA's coming around, so I'm just going to be smart and trust the trainers and go from there."