Until he bruised a knee in a preseason game, wide receiver Charlie Brown had been something special at the Redskins' training camp.
He had a name no one could forget and ability that gave coaches and the media reason to remember him.
He was a quiet, unassuming, longshot eighth-round draft choice who appeared to have secured a roster spot with fine hands, leaping ability and a burst of speed that seemed perfect for the Redskins' passing offense.
But Brown injured his right knee in a preseason game and, with the regular season now almost 8 weeks old, has yet to play a game. He practices every day and says his knee is almost healed. But both he and his coaches still wait for the old Charlie Brown to return.
"We're waiting for him to catch fire, to stick out like he did before," said Coach Joe Gibbs, who has gone with only three wide receivers on the roster. "When he does that, we'll think seriously about activating him. We know he has ability, he showed us that before. He's just got to be more consistent."
Cornerback Ray Waddy knows all about waiting. And he knows all about what Brown is going through.
It has been almost a year to the day since Waddy was carried off the field at RFK Stadium with a fractured leg. He has just begun practicing with the team, trying to play catch up before Gibbs has to make a decision next Thursday whether to activate him or put him on injured reserve, probably for the rest of the season.
"We'd love to activate him," Defensive Coordinator Richie Petitbon said. "I just don't know if he'll be ready. He's rusty and it takes time. He's been out a long while."
Waddy says he'll accept anything the Redskins decide. Just being able to work out again, at nearly full speed, after the months of lonely rehabilitation, is satisfaction enough for right now.
"I have a burning desire to play, that's what has kept pushing me," he said. "I think I can help the team now. I just need to keep working and get more polish. But I can accept it if they decide otherwise. I just know I'm on the right track."
It took five months for Waddy's leg to heal sufficiently so he could start jogging. By then, the muscles and ligaments were, in his words, "like jelly." He was still limping noticeably at the start of training camp, and the Redskins were given a roster exemption for him until he was capable of practicing again.
"I've had a lot of time to think, because there was a lot of hours where I had to work out alone," Waddy said. "But I never considered not playing. This is my profession and I wanted to come back. I just never knew it would take this long, no one did. I thought by now, I'd be playing."
Waddy's work habits over the last year are one reason both his coaches and teammates are hoping he can made it back, if not now, then by next summer. "He's been unbelievably dedicated," Petitbon said. "He's put in the time, he's pushed himself. That shows you something about how much he wants to play."
Brown is beginning to acquire some of Waddy's mental toughness about injuries. This was the first time Brown can remember being hurt, and he admits the sore knee turned his life into a nightmare.
"I've never been through anything like this," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I thought I'd be out maybe a week or two, and I really wanted to play against Dallas.
"But it just didn't get better. It was sore, it really hurt and I couldn't run on it. Then when I did start running on it, I had to learn to move so it didn't bother me. That took time too. I just got down on myself.
"This is the first week where I feel I can move like I did before. They've told me that they want me to be the Charlie Brown of the minicamps and show them a whole lot of hustle. If I do that, I hope they'll activate me."
Brown often thinks about that preseason game against Baltimore, when his dream ended. "One crummy play," he said, "and look what's happened. I'll remember this for the rest of my life. I just tell myself that I'll never get hurt again, that I've used up all my injury time."
Linebacker Brad Dusek has a muscle pull in his thigh and will be replaced against Miami Sunday by Monte Coleman, who is coming back after a five-week layoff because of a shoulder fracture . . . Defensive tackle Wilbur Young has been slowed by a sore toe, resulting from playing on artifical turf, and Perry Brooks is a likely starter in his place, despite a broken thumb . . . Guard Melvin Jones' neck (pinched nerve) has not improved since Sunday and veteran Ron Saul will take over his right guard spot. Tackle Joe Jacoby is expected to start despite lingering soreness from a neck sprain . . . Defensive end Mat Mendenhall remains hobbled by a sore knee, but might be able to fill in Sunday if Dexter Manley's twisted ankle acts up . . . Mark Moseley has resumed practicing kickoffs after resting two weeks because of a pulled thigh muscle . . . Gibbs says tight end Rich Caster, who joined the team a week ago, "is going to make a good contribution in weeks to come."