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Thompson, Thomas must prove durability

RICHMOND, Va. -- Their talent teases the Washington Redskins coaches, which is why they're anxious for them to return. The problem is, it seems like they're always waiting for a return. Running back Chris Thompson and strong safety Phillip Thomas, in their second training camp, have stood out because, well, they're always sitting out it seems.

Thompson has missed every practice since spraining his ankle in the preseason opener against New England, at the end of a five-yard reception. And he might miss the rest of the week.

Thomas has been nursing a strained hamstring since July 31.

Last year, Thomas suffered a Lisfranc injury early in the preseason opener, needed surgery and missed the season. Thompson, who missed time in college for back and knee injuries, tore his labrum in 2013 and played only four games. The word durability is as much a part of his scouting report as quickness.

"I try to keep my mind focused and stay positive about everything," said Thompson, a fifth-round pick a year ago. "I know what I can do. The coaches know what I can do. It's a matter of keeping my body right and going out and doing it. Everything will be a lot easier without the injuries."

The problem for Thompson is that he's locked in a battle at running back with veteran Evan Royster and rookies Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd. Thompson had an edge early in camp with coach Jay Gruden talking about plans for him in the pass game. Gruden liked him before the 2013 draft as well. But Thompson, listed at 5-foot-8, 193 pounds, needs to prove he can stay healthy above all else. It's not a death sentence for his Redskins' career just yet. But when there are questions about durability ... and a player gets hurt ... it's tough.

"It's unfortunate for him because he was progressing very well and he needs the reps to do what we're going to ask him to do on game day," Gruden said, "and if he's not available to get these reps, it's going to hurt his progress. Injuries happen, unfortunately to him it seems like more often than not. He's got to figure out a way to stay healthy. ...He's got to get back on the field, there's no question about it."

Thompson understands the situation.

"It's frustrating for me because I know what the coaches expect from me and I know what I expect from myself," he said. "It's pretty frustrating not to be out there at this moment."

The Redskins liked Thomas' progress as a rookie, then he got hurt. They were anxious to get a good look at him this summer. Then he had his hamstring injury. So instead of working with the No. 2 defense, behind starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather, he's typically on a side field working with trainers.

Thomas said he's close to returning and said he's confident he'll play against Cleveland on Monday night. That, of course, would please defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

"He needs to get on the field," Haslett said. "I know he's disappointed and the coaching staff is disappointed he's not out there. He's a guy we drafted and wanted to play at some point. Who knows what happens now. We have to get him back on the field and up to speed and hopefully he can contribute to the team."

Thomas engages in mental wrestling matches about his situation.

"I'm pressing myself," he said. "I want to get out there and show everybody what I can do. I have the talent to play. It's in my head, 'Phillip, you need to get out there. You need to perform. You need to get in those preseason games and do work.' But I don't want to get out there too soon and get hurt."

The coaches don't want him returning too fast, either, knowing that hamstring injuries can be tricky if not taken care of properly. They have patience -- to a point. The coaches only have so much time to evaluate players.

"They have promise and we're excited about what they can do, but we've got to see it. We can't see it if they're hurt all the time," Gruden said.

Thomas, a fourth-round pick, has good size at 6-feet, 223 pounds and needs to show he can be a viable backup -- especially with Meriweather one bad hit away from a multi-game suspension.

"I know they're eager to see what I can do," Thomas said. "I am, too."