Recovered from ACL surgery, Richard Crawford sets about reclaiming a role

RICHMOND — Richard Crawford established his value to the Redskins his rookie season in 2012, running back a punt 64 yards in overtime against Baltimore in Week 14 that set up a game-winning field goal. But Crawford’s development was halted by injury before his second NFL season got under way, with the seventh-round draft pick from Southern Methodist tearing multiple knee ligaments while returning a punt against Buffalo in the third preseason game.

Richard Crawford established himself in 2012 as a punt returner. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Richard Crawford established himself in 2012 as a punt returner. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

After the Redskins’ special teams unit limped through a miserable 2013 campaign, incoming coach Jay Gruden made upgrading it a priority. And Crawford, a 5-foot-11, 192 pound cornerback, hopes to reclaim a place in the return game while establishing a spot among the reserves in the defensive backfield.

“I’m great, honestly,” Crawford said Thursday, asked how his recovery has gone. “I get better every day.”

Spending the 2013 season on the injured reserve list was difficult, Crawford conceded. It was a struggle to accept the fact that his body wouldn’t perform; he simply couldn’t do his job.

But confident in his knee again, he’s trying to build confidence among defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica that he can be relied upon for speed, evasiveness and tackling. So far in camp, he has been a work in progress.

And plenty of talented veterans and newcomers are trying to make the same case, such as E.J. Biggers, Bashaud Breeland and Tracy Porter at cornerback and Andre Roberts, Chris Thompson and others in the return game.

“I’m sure I’m going to get my opportunity to do it,” Crawford said, “and when I do, I just have to be successful.”

Crawford said there’s a more confident vibe among the defensive backs this season, which he credits to Morris’s coaching, the addition of safety Ryan Clark and the evolution of Biggers, Bacarri Rambo and others.

“People are older, and more confident in what they’re doing,” Crawford said. “Playing defensive back — a small mistake can lead to a big breakdown, so we’re eliminating those small mistakes.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

What’s ahead:

Washington is back on the field Friday morning at 8:35. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.

Also from The Post:

Mike Jones’s observations from Day 8 | Photo gallery

Backup guards will have to play both sides

Griffin: Pass-catching back will help the offense

Clark and Moss perfect the art of playing into their mid-30s

More NFL coverage: Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

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