Redskins' Kelly May Get a Shot

Malcolm Kelly, limited for most of his rookie season, said, "This is easily the best I've felt since training camp."
Malcolm Kelly, limited for most of his rookie season, said, "This is easily the best I've felt since training camp." (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008; Page E01

Eager to contribute after having several weeks off to rest his bothersome left knee, Washington Redskins rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly was ready for practice to resume yesterday at Redskins Park.

"This is easily the best I've felt since training camp," Kelly said. "This is it."

His knee responded well after a full week of work last week, an encouraging sign for Kelly and the coaching staff, and the Redskins are hopeful Kelly could soon provide the big plays they envisioned when they drafted him.

Washington is expected to activate Kelly this week against the Seattle Seahawks, and the offense is in need of help after it struggled in consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. As Coach Jim Zorn walked off the field after practice, he sounded upbeat about the situation.

"He did pretty good. Real good," Zorn said of Kelly. "The thing that shows up right away, when Malcolm is out there, is that you can throw a vicinity pass, just a pass in the vicinity, and he's going to snag it. He has an easy way of catching the football. He makes something that could be spectacular for somebody else just look fairly easy. It's impressive. We've just got to hope he can continue."

The Redskins have spent most of the season waiting for Kelly, and their patience finally might be rewarded, coaches and players said.

"It definitely made sense to give Malcolm a chance to get healthy, to get that knee right, 'cause Malcolm is a guy who can make plays," quarterback Jason Campbell said recently. "The coaches decided it was the right thing to do, they looked at our team, and they figured Malcolm can help us, and I think he can. I think we need him."

Campbell is not alone in his opinion of Kelly. Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, felt so strongly about the potential contribution Kelly could make in the final six games that the Redskins released productive nickel cornerback Leigh Torrence instead of assigning Kelly to season-ending injured reserve -- a move that was even considered before the season -- when they signed free agent cornerback DeAngelo Hall earlier this month.

Zorn and wide receivers coach Stan Hixon have been extremely supportive of Kelly, who has one reception for six yards, and Campbell and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El are among many veterans who have "let me know, 'Hey, man, we need you out there,' " Kelly said. "I mean, yeah, it feels good when you hear that.

"When you hear guys say, 'We can't wait till you get back,' it builds your confidence up as a player, especially as a young player. When you're down and kind of injured, you question yourself. You get down in the dumps because you want to be out there, but as bad as you want it, if you're not feeling right, you can't do it."

Initially slowed because of a hamstring injury during training camp, Kelly underwent arthroscopic surgery Aug. 4 on his left knee and missed the preseason. He has been unable to play in some games because his knee swelled in pregame warmups, and the team's medical staff had to drain Kelly's knee several times after practices this season, Zorn said.

In an effort to help Kelly heal completely, the medical staff recommended he not participate in football activities for a few weeks; Kelly also received similar advice from a physician not with the team. Beginning with preparations for a Week 8 game against the Detroit Lions, Kelly watched practice from the sideline.

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