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Washington Redskins punt returner Richard Crawford tore at least one knee ligament and is out for the season, leaving a big gap on special teams.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Crawford tore his lateral collateral ligament and possibly the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on a three-yard punt return. Crawford injured his left knee in the first quarter of Saturday's 30-7 win against Buffalo.
Crawford was, by far, the Redskins' best option at punt returner. He didn't have much NFL experience, with just eight returns as a rookie in 2012. But one of them was a 64-yard return in overtime against Baltimore.
He also looked comfortable fielding punts throughout the preseason, both last year and this summer. Crawford also had improved as a corner, partly because of his offseason work with Hall of Famer Darrell Green.
Still, Crawford, a seventh-round pick in 2012, likely would have been only a fifth or sixth cornerback. It's the return game where he leaves a sizable void.
Rookie Chris Thompson fielded three punts for 48 yards in Crawford's absence, with a long of 31 yards during which he showcased his speed and open-field cutting. However, Thompson had only recently started working on catching punts. He did not return any at Florida State -- he last did so as a senior in high school, returning his last one for a touchdown.
Thompson looked good Saturday, but had some issues catching the ball properly in training camp. He's also fumbled twice from scrimmage.
"I believe I can [return punts]," Thompson said. "It's all about trust ... I have to limit those fumbles."
They also have veteran receiver Santana Moss, who has 112 career punt returns, but none since 2009. Veteran DeAngelo Hall also has 16 career returns, but only three in the last five years.
Shanahan has been reluctant to use starters in the return game. Moss does not start, but is their No. 1 slot receiver; Hall starts at corner.
Receiver Aldrick Robinson is another option. He struggled to catch punts as a rookie two years ago and did not perform those duties at Southern Methodist University. He has spent time working on it in practice.
Undrafted rookie Skye Dawson has worked there as well, but hasn't shown much. This summer, he fumbled on his first return and made a poor decision on his second.
"We've got a couple options," Shanahan said.