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Exclusive: Chris Thompson opens up about the team's rough start and coaching change

Exclusive: Chris Thompson opens up about the team's rough start and coaching change

Following Thursday's practice, NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay sat down with Redskins running back Chris Thompson to discuss the team's 0-5 start, Jay Gruden's firing, and more.

Here is a transcript of their conversation. 

JP Finlay: You got emotional talking about Jay Gruden. Clearly he means a lot to you. At that moment in the locker room last week when you got upset, were you expecting that to be his last game?

Chris Thompson: Yeah. I'm going to be honest. I had a good feeling because I really knew what was ahead of us and him this season. I knew it was just a matter of time, having such a bad start. It was kind of just everybody on eggshells about the situation. Had we come out in the second half and played as good as we did in the first half, then I think the whole situation would have been different. We definitely laid an egg out there. For me, it was just the whole situation that was frustrating. Being 0-5, I care more about the person than the coach. I think a lot of people didn't understand my emotion. At the end of the day, it's somebody losing their job. Somebody I care about. Someone I felt that gave me a big opportunity in this league. The Redskins drafted me and stuff. It's just a lot of frustration and a lot of stuff going on. We weren't playing as good as we were capable of. Just a super frustrating day for me.

JP: How do you respond to the allegations that [Gruden] quit on the team or that he wasn't trying?

Chris: Sometimes it's pretty difficult to see what people are saying out there because they're not in this building with us. That's super frustrating. It just takes one person to say one thing and then it takes off from there. Before, people were like, 'if he loses this game, he's going to be fired on Monday.' It just went out everywhere. Then somebody said, 'my sources tell me if they don't win against the Patriot's, then he's out of there.' People ran with that. That time, it obviously happened to be true. It's nothing against reporters when I say this, but the truth is, it just takes one person to say something. Whether it's true or false, that's what everybody believes. That's the power of social media; that's what social media is. It's hard to block it out. Every guy that's on social media, you see the stuff, the stories. But we have to not respond to it and find a way to not let it bother us when we come into the building and practice and just focus on winning that next game. I've been here before. It's my seventh year here. I've been here for a whole lot of the drama, with coach Shanahan the one year I was here, the quarterback situation, all of that. Now this situation with Jay, it's been a lot. It's tough. For me, I'm a super competitive guy. I want to do everything I can to turn this thing around. It's a lot of pieces and a lot of things we have to figure out before that happens.

JP: How does this week, and Jay getting fired midseason, compare to Shanahan getting fired, everything that happened with Kirk, everything that happened with Robert, all of the things you've seen at Redskins Park?

Chris: I think this one was different because, for me, I think the situation with coach Shanahan happened after the season. This happened during the season. I've never had in my football career this happen. It's a huge change. It's a big shock for everybody. Dealing with a new coach, coach Callahan has his ways he wants to run things. And it's different. It takes guys some time to get used to that. The focus is still the same: to win every week. I think for a lot of guys it was just tough in the beginning, but we all got a job to do. We can't hang our heads on that. We just have to come out and do everything we can do Wednesday through Friday to have a good showing on gameday.

JP: How is practice going with Callahan? It looks different to us, how is it different to you?

Chris: It's been good. It's work. And like I said, it's coach Callahan's way. As players, as pros, we're going out and putting in good work. From the feedback I've been hearing from the guys, they've been enjoying it. Like I said, the focus is to win on Sunday and limit and fix our mistakes that we've made the first five games and try not to have happen during this last stretch.

JP: Callahan has you guys going ones versus ones for a 10, 12 minute period. How are you reacting to that? Do you like that?

Chris: It's cool for me. I enjoy it. I love competition. That's what it is. It's competition. The guys are ramping up and going up against each other for six to eight plays, whatever the case may be, and just try and have some friendly competition. I think guys have been enjoying it and just having fun with it.

JP: Is it weird to be hitting on a Thursday in October?

Chris: Yeah. Like I said it's something different. It's definitely different. I think with everything, it takes guys time to adjust to something new. Because it is new. Guys did respond well to it today and going to continue to.

JP: Callahan has said 'we aren't running the ball enough, we have to run the ball way more.' You're a running back. how do you like the sound fo that?

Chris: It's cool. I'm down with it. You know me and what my skill set is, I'm perfectly fine with it. It's something that we've been wanting to do, but at the same time, obviously, you can't force it. If we're down by 14 points, and we don't want to keep trying to run the ball on first and second down, saying we're doing what we want we do. We have to put ourselves in better situations. In the game, we have to do a better job controlling the clock and ball successfully and be able to give our defense a rest. if we can't do that then we're still going to have the same outcome that we've had the first five weeks. That's been one of our focuses this week, just trying to change that and continue to be better so we can be a good running team, control the clock, and give the defense a rest. We saw it last week, when they're are rested and have a lot of energy going, what they have the potential to do.

JP: Have you ever been 0-5? You told me one season in Pop Warner you never got tackled. I can't imagine you were 0-5 that year?

Chris: The year before that, I lost every game. That next year was when that happened.

JP: How old were you?

Chris: I was in fourth grade. Like 10.

JP: What's it like to lose like this?

Chris: It sucks. It's bad. Especially for me. My girlfriend of all people, she sees it more than anybody else. I hate losing. I can't sleep, I think about it all the time. Just to have such a bad start. Since I've been in the league it hasn't happened, in college it didn't happen, in high school it didn't happen, in middle school it didn't happen. So this is really frustrating, but I'm just trying to do everything I can to change this around. I refuse to be an 0-16 team. I can't let that happen. We can't let that happen. I know it's not just a one man job, but we got to focus up these last 11 games and find a way to make it happen.

JP: How do you beat Miami then? How do you change it?

Chris: Limit the mistakes. Control the clock. When we get the opportunities, we have to make the best of it and make some big plays. Steven Sims did a good job of giving us a spark, and the defense was balling out, but for some reason we could not just get it together on offense. When we have big plays like that, that's a big momentum booster. We got to be able to roll with it and just maximize on opportunities like that.

JP: You had a loss in the family this week, your grandmother passed away. How hard is it to focus on the game and where is that line?

Chris: It's tough. I've been keeping in contact with my family and just making sure they're all doing good.

JP: How close were you with your grandmother?

Chris: Very close, she lived 10 minutes away from me where I grew up. We were close. We spent a lot of time together. Just a tough situation. It sucks that I'm here and I have to be at work. just a tough thing to deal with. We know that nobody is going to be here forever. She had some health issues so it was only a matter of time. When it finally happens, it still hurts. I had a real time yesterday. I'm doing a lot better today. It's just one part of life we kind of just have to deal with as it comes.

JP: Will Sunday's game mean that much more for you?

Chris: For sure. It's crazy that this happened and I happened to be going back to my home stadium. It means a lot to me. It meant a lot to my grandma and my whole family that i even was one of few people and not many in my hometown to even make it to the league. So it will definitely mean a lot to me.


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Jamison Crowder's performance vs. Washington reminded the Redskins just exactly what they're missing

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Jamison Crowder's performance vs. Washington reminded the Redskins just exactly what they're missing

FEDEX FIELD -- There's an age-old saying, 'there's no place like home.'

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder called FedEx Field home for four seasons but departed this past offseason for New York on a lucrative three-year, $28.5 million deal. At the time, letting Crowder walk did not seem like a big deal for Washington. His final season with the Burgundy and Gold was injury-shortened and unproductive, and the price tag seemed a little steep for a slot receiver.

On Sunday, Crowder returned to Washington for the first time as a visitor, and he certainly felt right back at home. The 26-year-old receiver finished with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in the Jets' 34-17 victory over Washington, a game that was not really close at all.

"It means a lot. Great team win," Crowder said on the victory. "Just to come back here to FedEx [Field] against the Redskins, for me, it's a great feeling. I'm just glad to be winning."

In his first year sporting green and white instead of burgundy and gold, the slot receiver has been a valuable asset for second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Through 10 games, Crowder has recorded 53 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns with a 73.8 percent catch rate. He's on pace for 85 catches and just under 900 yards on the season, both of which would be career highs. 

"Crowder did a great job of making catches when [he] needed to," Jets running back Le'Veon Bell said. 

Meanwhile, his former team has struggled mightily on offense, especially over the last month of the season. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins' 45-yard touchdown pass to Derrius Guice snapped a 16 quarter touchdown-less streak Washington had been on. That's four full games without a touchdown. The streak was the longest of such in nearly two decades.

Crowder, who played in a relatively high-scoring offense during his time in Washington, was asked whether he was surprised about the team's struggles. 

"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it much," Crowder said. "I think they have a really good ball team over there across the board. Especially on defense, they have a lot of guys that are really good. Offensively, they got a lot of guys that make plays, young guys that make plays. I haven't really thought about what's going on with them."

With Crowder's departure, the Redskins expected second-year receiver Trey Quinn to fill the void. Quinn has been unproductive and disappointing. He finished Sunday's contest with just two catches for nine yards, an unacceptable performance from someone who Washington counted on to make a leap in 2019. In 10 games, Quinn has a total of 198 receiving yards, with no more than 36 yards in any contest. 

Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin's emergence as the Redskins No. 1 wide receiver has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise lost season for Washington, but even his production doesn't match Crowder's. 

Crowder was certainly happy to defeat his old team but downplayed having any extra juice entering the matchup.

"There wasn't any extra motivation. I just approached it as another game," Crowder said. "It was just a little different going against the guys that I played four years with. I'm familiar with a lot of guys over there. For me, that's the only thing. For my preparation, I just approached it as another game."

Crowder may have seen Sunday as just another game, but the Redskins should look at his performance and see a player they maybe should have kept.


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In a blowout, Dwayne Haskins and Derrius Guice connect for a meaningful touchdown

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In a blowout, Dwayne Haskins and Derrius Guice connect for a meaningful touchdown

Getting blown out by the New York Jets, one would think that any touchdown the Redskins would potentially score when trailing 34-3 would mean nothing. In most cases, that would be correct.

But when Dwayne Haskins connected with Derrius Guice for a 45-yard score, it was actually a very notable touchdown.

The touchdown is important for multiple reasons. One being that it is Haskins' first NFL touchdown. Making his first home start, the quarterback didn't have the performance many would have hoped for. But, he does now have one touchdown.

While it was the first for Haskins, it was also the first for Guice. The second-year running back who has missed a lot of time with injuries returned for the Week 11 battle and show the playmaking ability that has many excited to see him on the field.

Last, but definitely not least, the score put an end to the horrid touchdown-drought the Redskins had been in. Before Guice crossed the goal line, Washington hadn't scored in 16 quarters. Yes, that is the equivalent to four games.

But alas, the Redskins have a touchdown and so do Haskins and Guice. Sunday was a disappointing day, but at least there was this moment.