Coach Mike Shanahan says he has a lengthy list of candidates to take over as the Washington Redskins’ punt returner and he doesn’t know yet which one he’ll choose.
Shanahan joked that he had “14 guys returning punts” during Monday’s practice. He mentioned veteran wide receiver Santana Moss and rookie Chris Thompson prominently among the possibilities.
“The guys that have experience, I think we all know,” Shanahan said Monday. “You get a guy like Santana who has returned punts when he first got in the league. I watched his returns back in college, what he was able to do. So Santana is a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in. You’re always going to take a look at a young guy as well, a guy like Chris, and we’ve got another few guys that have the potential to do it. I hate to tell you right now because I really don’t know. We’ll take the next couple days to evaluate it, just like we’ve talked about, and try to give them a couple game situations and try to get a guy that, for sure, catches it and doesn’t turn it over. That’s the number one priority.”
The Redskins lost their punt returner, reserve cornerback Richard Crawford, to a season-ending knee injury suffered during Saturday’s preseason triumph over the Buffalo Bills. They will play their preseason finale Thursday night in Tampa.
Shanahan also mentioned cornerback DeAngelo Hall and wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Skye Dawson among the possibilities. He acknowledged that his preference would be to give the job to a player who would make the season-opening 53-man roster even without being the team’s top punt returner. That would seem to favor Moss, Hall or Robinson over Thompson or Dawson, ideally. But Shanahan also did not rule out using a roster spot for a punt-return specialist, and the Redskins will have to weigh factors such as how the roster numbers crunch plays out and whether they want to put an additional burden on a player such as Moss or Hall.
“Richard did a great job for us last year,” Shanahan said. “Now that he’s gone, we experimented today. We’ll do it the next couple days. We’ll see how we step up in a game situation against Tampa and then make a decision.”
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● The roster must be cut down to 75 players from 90 no later than 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
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