Chris Thompson is waiting patiently, soaking up offense

Chris Thompson Rookie running back Chris Thompson tries to haul in a pass during practice. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

As the Washington Redskins have made their way through the last three weeks of offseason practices and then prepare to conclude the program with Thursday’s session and next week’s minicamp, rookie Chris Thompson has tried to practice patience while also seizing whatever minimal opportunities he gets to show his potential.

A fifth-round pick out of Florida State, the 5-foot-7, 192-pound running back is expected to contend for a spot behind starter Alfred Morris. His speed and pass-catching ability make him an ideal candidate for third-down back duties. But so far, Thompson hasn’t gotten the chance to display his capabilities.

Rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in October, Thompson remains more than a month away from receiving full clearance to return to action. He and team trainers believe he will be ready to participate fully when Washington opens training camp in Richmond on July 25.

But until then, Thompson will continue getting “mental reps,” as Mike Shanahan frequently preaches, and doing whatever physical activities permitted as he continues rehab. Despite champing at the bit, Thompson believes the imposed slower pace may prove beneficial.

“Our rookie camp, there was a lot thrown at us in three days, and now it’s slowed down a little bit and I’m able to see the vets do it now,” he said. “So I’m pretty much understanding it better and better, and the longer we go with it, the easier these plays are going to come for me when it’s time.”

Another positive has been the ability to develop chemistry with the also-rehabbing Robert Griffin III. During the portions of practice where the Redskins’ recovering players are permitted to run a limited amount of offensive plays off to the side, Thompson has taken handoffs and pitches from Griffin while also catching passes from him.

“It’s good, it’s fun, just trying to build that chemistry with each other, let him understand me a little bit and let him see how good my hands really are for him,” Thompson said. “It’s just fun being with him. I never would’ve dreamed I would’ve been in the NFL right now due to my injuries, so I’m real grateful for the opportunity, and even just RGIII willing to take the time to throw balls to me.”

Thompson said there are some routes Griffin refuses to let him run because he doesn’t want the back to put unnecessary strain on his knee prematurely. Thompson understands, but there are times when his competitive fire burns more intensely.

“I try to keep it real calm for a little bit of practice,” Griffin said, “and then when you guys see [running back Roy] Helu come over there, that’s when [Thompson] starts revving up his reps and doing the routes because, you know, he doesn’t want to be shown up by the other guys. So I try to keep an eye on him.”

Said Thompson, “It’s something I have to be patient with. … But I know my time will come.”

When that time does come, Thompson will compete with Helu, Evan Royster, Keiland Williams and Jawan Jamison for the top backup duties.

“Alfred’s the guy, and they’re going to use me however they want to use me, whether it’s me coming out of the backfield, or in slot, wherever,” Thompson said. “We’ve got some smart coaches, so it’s just a good opportunity.”

Griffin agrees.

“Great guy from what I have been able to see, practicing with him and being able to do those things,” he said of Thompson. “Really explosive, fast guy, big-play guy. At the beginning of last year, he was tearing it up at Florida State and had the injury so he’s coming back. He’s doing a really good job. He’s been in there with me rehabbing a lot, so it’s good to see him so dedicated and I feel like he’s going to be a big part of the team.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @john_keim (starting July 1) | @D3Keith | @Insider

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.

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Mark Maske · June 5, 2013

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