Redskins

Michigan moves to No. 1 in AP poll

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Michigan moves to No. 1 in AP poll

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) John Beilein acknowledged Monday afternoon that he had quite a few text messages on his phone.

The Michigan coach just hadn't checked them yet.

``I've been absorbed in Northwestern tape,'' Beilein said.

The Wolverines are No. 1 in The Associated Press' college basketball poll for the first time since their Fab Five days 20 years ago, but Beilein is determined not to get carried away with all this recognition.

Michigan took over the top spot after a 74-60 victory at Illinois on Sunday night. Next up on the schedule is Northwestern, and there's no reason for the routine to change.

``Our goal at Michigan is to be No. 1 in the Big Ten. When you achieve that honor, you will have a chance at the national championship,'' Beilein said. ``All through the year polls will spark great interest among college basketball fans everywhere and that is always good. Our coaches and players, however, will remain focused on our goals of improving daily and competing for the championship within our conference.''

Michigan is doing pretty well in that regard, too. The Wolverines tied for the Big Ten title last year, and they're deadlocked atop the league right now with No. 3 Indiana. The Hoosiers host Michigan on Saturday night.

Michigan received 51 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel Monday. Kansas moved up one spot to No. 2 and had 13 first-place votes. They are the only one-loss teams in the poll. Indiana, Florida, which drew the other first-place vote, and Duke complete the top five.

Duke, which was No. 1 last week, dropped after being routed 90-63 by Miami in the third-worst defeat by a top-ranked team. It was the second straight week the No. 1 team lost.

The Wolverines advanced from No. 2 to become No. 1 for the fourth time. They were at the top for 10 weeks in 1964-65, eight weeks in 1976-77 and three weeks at the start of 1992-93, the Fab Five's second and final season together.

That season, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson made it to the national championship game for the second straight year.

Jackson now lives in Texas, but he roots for the Wolverines from afar.

``I'm excited about it and I'm very proud of those boys,'' Jackson said in a telephone interview Monday. ``I'm really excited and pleased about what Coach Beilein has done to turn the program around.''

Michigan fell on hard times after the Fab Five moved on, in part because of NCAA sanctions related to that era. Beilein took over in 2007 and made the NCAA tournament in his second season with the Wolverines, but the program's rise didn't really begin until two years ago.

In January 2011, Michigan was 1-6 in Big Ten play when the Wolverines shocked Michigan State in East Lansing. Michigan took off after that victory, reaching the NCAA tournament that year. The following season, the Wolverines won a share of their first conference title since 1986.

Now the Wolverines are national title contenders thanks to guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway and a talented group of freshmen - although the toughest tests are still to come.

After hosting Northwestern on Wednesday night, Michigan faces a four-game stretch against Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.

``What I'd like to see is what we've already seen,'' Beilein said. ``That they're on a mission to be the best that this team can possibly be.''

Michigan is the second Big Ten team to be No. 1 this season. Indiana was the preseason No. 1 and stayed there for the first five weeks of the regular season. Duke moved in for four weeks before Louisville and the Blue Devils both held it for one week.

Rounding out the top 10 are No. 6 Syracuse, followed by Gonzaga, Arizona, Butler and Oregon. Miami rode its win over Duke to an 11-place jump in the poll, from 25th to 14th.

Fourteen ranked teams, including half of the top 10, lost at least one game last week. Four teams, including Louisville, which dropped from fifth to 12th, lost twice last week.

San Diego State and Marquette returned to the rankings this week, replacing Virginia Commonwealth, which was 19th, and Notre Dame, which was 24th.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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When I knew: Redskins' Chris Thompson on his journey from untouchable runner to the NFL

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USA TODAY Sports

When I knew: Redskins' Chris Thompson on his journey from untouchable runner to the NFL

At some point, every sports fan has some form of the same dream. Play quarterback in the NFL. Roam centerfield in the Majors. Splash 3-pointers in the NBA. Whack forehands at Wimbledon.

Along the way, most of us realize we peaked as kids. There's no hope of climbing that mountain or ever coming close, though on certain days and for fleeting moments... Nah, not happening.

That comprehension often comes early in life. For true romantics or delusional souls, perhaps a decade or two later.

For others, the dream turns into reality. Whether they stormed the courts as prodigies or developed their craft over time, a moment occurred when thoughts shifted. When they recognized they might be different. This series of interviews with local professional athletes focus on that moment.

Next up, Redskins running back Chris Thompson

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I think for me it truly started in high school. As a kid, I was always faster than everybody. When I played Little League ball that was no problem for me. I was more nervous about getting tackled. I didn’t want to play.

I had one Little League season -- I think I was in fifth grade I believe -- where I was tackled one time the whole season. That was in the championship game. Other than that, every time I touched [the ball] it was a touchdown.

When I got in high school, I was on varsity since my freshman year. I started at running back my sophomore year, playing against older guys, against teams that were bigger and better than us. I was able to perform well. I was like, alright I can probably make something out of this. That’s when I really got a good feeling about [my ability].

As far as making it to the NFL, honestly, it didn’t hit me until my sophomore year [at Florida State].

We got a new running back coach, Eddie Gran. He just started talking to me, teaching me about what I needed to be good at to make it to the league and be able to play for a long time because he helped produce a lot of running backs that made it (Deuce McAllister, Ronnie Brown, etc).

Just being around him and learning from him really helped me and gave me the confidence that I could make it to the NFL and be a very good player.

Then you reach the NFL. At what point did you think you got this?

That was really the toughest challenge, realizing (I could play in the NFL). It didn’t really hit me until my fourth year.

My rookie year it didn’t really work out too well (Lost role as the primary kick returner after four games before suffering a torn left labrum).

(Released and then signed to) the practice squad my second year so I was doubting everything at that point. Just being cut made me doubt my ability. Really one of the lowest parts of my entire football career.

My third year I knew it was my job because Coach (Jay) Gruden told me that. I could do my job, but excelling and going beyond expectations was really around my fourth year when it hit me. I finished that season out healthy. My first full season. (Thompson played all 16 games for the only time in his career to date, finishing with 49 receptions and 705 yards from scrimmage.)

After that, I was able to go into the offseason feeling really healthy for the first time. Feeling like myself once again like the senior year of college version of myself. As you could see last year (2017), I had a wonderful year.

Any specific moment in the NFL that had you thinking, I got this?

We were playing against the Eagles Week 16 in my third year to win the division. I think the first play I came in was in the red zone and I ended up scoring a touchdown on “choice” route against Kiko Alonso, who is a linebacker I have a lot of respect for. That really gave me some confidence.

I had a few more plays where I was just running routes, kind of getting open during that game and a few more games. I was OK, if I can be consistent, keep catching the ball and keep getting open, I could really be great at this. Then the game started slowing down for me in my fourth year. Then I got more comfortable. I got way more patient in my routes. It was like, dang, dude, with your footwork and acceleration, you can really get open against these guys and make some plays.

The transcript was edited for length and clarity.

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With his rookie contract in rearview mirror, what's next for Redskins WR Jamison Crowder?

With his rookie contract in rearview mirror, what's next for Redskins WR Jamison Crowder?

ASHBURN — By now it's well-documented that the Washington Redskins' season did not go as planned, and you can say the same for fourth-year wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

Crowder, 25, was limited to just nine games due to a lingering ankle injury for most of the season, and then a separate late-December wrist injury. He finished the year with 29 catches for 388 yards, well off his career norms.

The Redskins have received plenty of production from Crowder (221 catches, 2,628 yards, 14 touchdowns) at a discounted price during his first few years in the NFL. That is about to change.

“I’m comfortable here,” Crowder said. “Obviously, I have a really high interest level in coming back. It’s going to be in discussion with my agent. There hasn’t really been much discussion as far as right now.”

Washington's 2015 fourth-round pick raced out of the gate in his NFL career setting a Redskins rookie record for receptions (59). Barring a contract extension in the next two months, Crowder will be free to sign with any team in March and there is no guarantee that he will return.

That would leave the Redskins even more desperate for proven options at wide receiver, arguably the most disappointing position on the team during a second straight 7-9 season.

Josh Doctson led Washington receivers with 44 receptions, the lowest total since 1998 when Michael Westbrook had a team-high 44 among the pack. Given that uncertainty at receiver, where Paul Richardson also missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, Crowder’s teammates want him back.

“Got to pay him,” running back Chris Thompson said. “I mean – that’s the business side of it. I really, really, really do hope that we can get him back. He’s been a key part of this offense since he’s been here. I’m excited for him. He’s really gonna help himself be in a better situation for him and his family and his kids and his future. He’s made a good resume for himself that he can make himself some really good money. I hope that it’s here.”

Crowder missed those seven games with a right ankle injury sustained in a Week 5 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He spent time in a walking boot. After three consecutive years of 59 catches or more, Crowder dropped to 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

“You want to keep the nucleus of the team together at all costs,” Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said. “But it’s the NFL and it’s always easier said than done. I try not to get into the whole free agency deal because those guys got to make business decisions for them and their families.”

The Redskins could decide that slot receiver Trey Quinn, a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, could fill Crowder’s production at a much cheaper price and allow them to upgrade the position through the draft or free agency. But that will come at a risk.

Crowder has proven to be one of the league’s better slot receivers when healthy. Quinn was on IR twice with a high-ankle sprain as a rookie. Acknowledging that injuries to quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy hurt the overall production of the group, can the Redskins really afford to let more talent leave the building at wide receiver?

Having completed the final year of his rookie contract, Crowder admitted the uncertainty of his future feels a little different.

"Yeah, I guess you could say it's a little weird. I just don't know, you know, what's going to happen right now. I just have to kind of wait and see what's going on."

Despite the unpredictable nature of Crowder's situation, he didn't mince his words on where his hopes lie going forward.

"I have a really high-interest level in coming back."

Brian McNally contributed to this story.

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