Richard Crawford admitted he was nervous when he first took the field Thursday night in the Redskins' 2012 preseason opener against the host Buffalo Bills.
But the rookie defensive back -- the Redskins' seventh-round selection in April's NFL Draft -- quickly ridded himself of any jitters in his first play from scrimmage, a cornerback blitz that sent Crawford hurdling toward the Buffalo quarterback.
"First play of the game, I had a blitz, so I was kind of nervous with that big [offensive] tackle," Crawford, an SMU product, told reporters after the game. "It's just good to get the nerves out."
But it was what Crawford did after that play -- both on defense and on as a punt returner -- that raised eyebrows Thursday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
With 42 seconds left in the first half, Buffalo quarterback Tyler Thigpen tried to find wide receiver T.J. Graham along the sideline with a fade route, but Crawford—playing deep as part of the Cover 3 defense—picked off the underthrown Thigpen pass with an athletic, over-the-shoulder catch.
"I was surprised he threw it," Crawford said. "I just made sure I caught the ball."
After he caught the ball, however, Crawford admitted he had a bit of a rookie moment.
"I don't know what I did," Crawford said with a smile. "I kind of had a brainfart and just ran the other way."
Crawford didn't look like a rookie when he got his chances to return punts, returning three punts for 42 yards (14 yards per return), highlighted by a 17-yard scamper in the third quarter.
"I actually do a pretty good job of looking downfield before I get the return, kind of feeling who's around me," Crawford said. "I knew I had room to get the ball. The punt returner's rule: always make the first guy miss and make something happen, and that's what I did."
Crawford is one among 15 cornerbacks and safeties listed on the Redskins' roster that are trying to make the 53-man roster this preseason.
He took a step forward in achieving that goal Thursday night.
"You've got to play well every time you're out there -- especially a guy like me, a seventh-rounder," Crawford said. "I'm just trying improve and learn from [DeAngelo Hall], Josh [Wilson], [Cedric Griffin], anybody I can -- even Brandon [Banks] with the returns.
"Any way I can learn and get better, I will."