Chris Thompson feels the pain, not the nerves.
Eleven months ago, the running back was in the middle of a career season with the Washington Redskins before he broke his right fibula on a freak play at the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints. He returns to the site of that injury Monday night looking like his old self but not quite feeling back to normal.
“As far as my speed and my route-running, all of that, yes,” Thompson said Thursday. “As far as feeling pain-free, no. That’s the only negative that I have right now.”
It’s a negative Thompson is certainly overcoming as the almost-perfect complementary backfield piece to Adrian Peterson. His 20 catches are the most on the team, and coupled with his 5.5 yards a carry average and pass protection skills, he is one of the most valuable pieces of the offense.
Just three games with Thompson have made a believer out of quarterback Alex Smith.
“It’s easy to label those guys as kind of scat backs, specialist-type backs, but I don’t think Chris is limited in that way,” Smith said. “He’s a guy that can do everything and has a ton of tools.”
Thompson was the Redskins’ do-everything player last season before the injury. He had 804 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns in nine-plus games before a Saints defender rolled up on him and caused the fracture.
Coach Jay Gruden is proud of the 27-year-old’s diligence in rehab and ability to hold himself back in training camp and preseason to get prepared for Week 1. Thompson is on the field and productive but has to fight through pain during the week at practice as he bounces back from games.
“It’s recovery stuff,” Thompson said. “It’s just all part of the process. I’m able to play now and game days for some reason I really don’t have much pain at all. It’s kind of different during the week.”
Thompson has come back from severe knee, shoulder and back injuries in the past, so pain tolerance doesn’t seem to be an issue. His team certainly can’t tell he’s bothered by anything right now because Thompson seems to be on top of his game.
“He’s explosive and fast and physical and everything he was before the injury, if not better,” Gruden said. “He hasn’t lost a step, in my opinion.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said Thompson is “certainly someone you have to pay attention to,” and he’s not alone in thinking that way. Green Bay doubled Thompson in coverage to limit his impact in Week 3, but Smith, Peterson and tight end Jordan Reed were able to do enough to put up 31 points on the Packers.
Washington will likely have to keep up that pace against New Orleans, which has averaged over 34 points a game so far this season. The Redskins can count on Thompson to help that cause as he tries not to dwell on his injury when he’s back at the Superdome.
“I’m just excited to get back,” Thompson said. “I haven’t had any nerves or even really thought much about me going back and the injury and the whole payback thing. I’m really not thinking about that. I know probably when the game comes around it’ll be some nerves going maybe. But as of right now, it’s just focus on just trying to win the game.”
NOTES: WR Josh Doctson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a heel injury. Gruden said Doctson got kicked in the heel Monday and isn’t sure if the 2016 first-round pick will be ready to face the Saints. … CB Josh Norman (hamstring) expects to be ready to play Monday night.
Source: The Associated Press