Redskins running back Chris Thompson knows the nerves will hit him at some point prior to the team's season opener in Arizona, but "that's going to make it even better for me," he said on Wednesday.
The confidence is readily apparent for Thompson, who hasn't played in a football game since breaking his right fibula against the Saints in Week 12 last season. After an extensive rehab process and efficient recovery, he made significant strides without any setbacks throughout training camp, only held out of preseason games as a precautionary measure.
This Sunday will be his first test of real adversity, the first mental hump to shed the worries about how his leg will respond to his cuts, to movements, to opposing tackles. He's waited a long time and now gets to move forward.
"Yeah I'm over most of it, I'm just not over the hitting, the contact part just yet," Thompson said. "Coach [Randy] Jordan actually told me he's going to hit me a couple times in pregame just so I could I got those nerves out, which is not going to help any, but once I get over that part, I mean, it will be smooth sailing from there."
Thompson's workload continued to increase during the team's stay in Richmond, Va., in August but the need to have him on the field in preseason hasn't been particularly pressing. Considering the injuries the Redskins sustained last year, head coach Jay Gruden has made sure to make health a priority before the season starts.
How that manifests in Week 1 isn't exactly a sure thing. The Redskins would like to use Thompson in the same way they did last year when he broke off some career games, but they also know it will take a little more time than usual for him to feel fully adjusted to an offense led by Alex Smith and find his feet under him for an entire game.
"We have a lot of different packages and we just have to limit the packages and try to figure out the best way to get our best players on the field," Gruden said. "He could see anywhere between five snaps and 90 snaps. Right now, it just depends on how we feel and how he feels on game day. He's such a great weapon for us, not only in the passing game, catching routes, but he's great in pass protection and he's also a very good runner as we all know. So, temptation will be there to play him a lot, but we also have Rob [Kelley], Samaje [Perine], Adrian [Peterson] that can also take some of the work off of him."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Peterson, Gruden joked in similar fashion, would ideally get 40 touches against the Cardinals, but with the former MVP being named the starter, Thompson believes his role will relatively stay the same.
"I don't think much is going to change," Thompson said.
"As we continue to get this game plan together it makes even me more excited about what we can do as an offense when everybody's healthy," he said. "But, I mean, you know, as long as we keep everyone feeling good, I think we can do some great things on offense. I mean, we have guys at every single position that can really make some plays in one-on-one situations. As long as we just stay focused I think the sky's the limit for us."
Having Peterson in the running backs room has been a bonus for everyone, especially this week as he's discussed the strengths and weaknesses of just about every Arizona Cardinal that he played with briefly last season. "He's told us a lot, as much as he knew about every individual player, which I think that helps in our advantage sometimes," Thompson said.
Until the game, Thompson is trying to calm the emotions, trying to envision what the first hit will feel like after being off limits for so long.
"I think it's just, for me, taking one hit and then I'm good to go from there."