With a new hairdo, a fixed foot, the same smile and, apparently, the same speed, Ziz is back.

The University of Maryland football team was 3-0 last year when Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof -- known simply as Ziz -- ruptured the Achilles' tendon in his left leg during the second quarter of the fourth game, against N.C. State Sept. 27. Maryland lost that game, and the next two, on the way to a 5-5-1 season. A healthy Ziz might have made a difference.

Instead, he spent the next eight weeks in a cast, and it was nearly eight months before he began to jog again. Only in the last month has the 6-foot- 1/2, 194-pound wide receiver started to sprint. But he has been cleared by team physician Stanford Lavine to play and will begin two-a-day practices with the rest of the upperclassmen on Saturday.

Yesterday, Abdur-Ra'oof, who last year was one of the fastest players on the team, and the other veterans ran time trials. He said it felt good to run fast in front of a crowd again.

"With an injury as serious as it was," Ra'oof said, "people always have doubts about whether you can play again. I didn't. I always felt like I could come back. Today I accomplished what I wanted to do. I was real excited about this. When you don't play for so long, all of sudden it's a chance to show you are capable of accomplishing what you've done in the past."

Outstanding speed helped Abdur-Ra'oof catch 25 passes as a redshirt freshman and 32 as a sophomore. Prior to the injury, he said his best time in the 40 was less than 4.3. After a time trial yesterday, he wasn't saying what he ran. He joked that it was less than 4.6, which for him isn't saying much.

"I just wanted to run a good time," he said. "It was something mentally for me to get over. To go full speed in front of the guys on the team, the coaches, and the pro scouts, I was pleased. I wasn't expected to run a great time, but by September when the season gets going, I should be stronger."

Maryland players and coaches were keeping the times to themselves. It's part of the cat-and-mouse game of not giving an opponent any extra information.

"I'll still be able to run by some guys," Abdur-Ra'oof said with grin, adding there is no pain from the injury.

After the surgery to repair the tendon, he spent several football Saturdays watching his teammates from the press box. Though his graduate work is in urban affairs, his bachelor's degree was in speech communications and he would like to go into broadcasting if he has no National Football League career.

"You miss the games," he said. "I watched the Penn State game in the booth with Johnny Holliday {WMAL play-by-play man}. You don't feel like you're a part of the team because you're not contributing physically. That's the tough part. But I was there, and it helped not thinking about not playing, and it helps with what I want to do after college."

He graduated in June and began work on his graduate degree this summer. While also working as an intern at WTTG-TV-5, he began working on a Cybex machine to strengthen the Achilles' tendon and the muscles around it.

"He will have to stretch out and warm up more because he now has scar tissue in place of healthy tissue," Maryland trainer J.J. Bush said. "Usually the scar tissue is tougher, so the chances of it rupturing in the same place are remote. We tested him after the first summer school session and it was only five to six percent less {strong and flexible} than the other leg, which is good."

After the first summer session, Abdur-Ra'oof went home to Millersville, Md., to relax while also trying to get in condition by running and working out.

He also let his carefully cropped hair grow out a bit, and teammates have taken to calling him "Billy Dee {Williams}."

"I was a little careful in the beginning," he said. "I've only been sprinting three or four weeks. But I was playing basketball and didn't even think about it, so I knew I was ready."

He will rejoin a team that is very deep at the receiver positions. Wideouts Vernon Joines and James Milling totaled 61 receptions last year, and tight end Ferrell Edmunds caught 28 passes.

"It's good because then we can do a lot more things," said Abdur-Ra'oof, who had nine catches before the injury. "And as we know, there's no guarantee everyone will last the whole season."

There is no concern about getting back in the lineup, though.

"You can't think that way," he said. "You have to be competitive because you always know there is going to be competition. And the better the people are in front of you, the better you're going to be, if you work hard. Consequently, the better the competiton, the better the team."

And though players usually loathe summer practice, he is eager to start.

"There's a lot of things I have to work on," he said. "I had to get used to walking again. I had to get used to sprinting again. Now, I have to get used to being a receiver again."