Kelvin Bryant has been in on only a handful of plays, caught just three passes and carried the ball twice. But for the Washington Redskins, the important thing seems to be that he's healthy and available, something they once wondered if he'd ever be.

Coach Joe Gibbs said that just because Bryant has yet to convert three drive-saving third-down plays in a game doesn't mean he won't. A year ago, Bryant was sidelined with a neck injury, and until about six months ago, it appeared his football career was over.

When he was cleared to play, Gibbs said he would be his third-down specialist, and even with a $700,000 salary, the Redskins never flinched about keeping him.

"A very valuable part of this team," Gibbs said. "He's smart and he's a good worker."

The only remaining question seems to be if he'll ever be a third-down specialist in the mold of, say, New York's Dave Meggett, who has caught seven passes for 109 yards.

The Redskins say that before this five-week stretch when they play the Giants and Eagles four times is up, Bryant will have several chances to prove his worth. Once Bryant fought being tagged with such a specialist's role, but now he appears just happy to be playing.

"I was looking forward to playing a little bit more, but as long as we're winning, I'm satisfied," he said. "I feel real good about just being able to play again. Last year, I didn't know if I'd ever play again. It's a great feeling to come back out here and play."

Bryant said the toughest part has been coming in for one play, then leaving. That problem has been evident with a couple of drops from a normally sure-handed receiver.

"You have to concentrate when you're in there," he said. "When I'm on the sideline, I'm watching what's going on. It's not like being on the field every play, but that's my role. I have to be ready whenever they call me. That's something I've gotten used to since I got here."

Labbe, Searcy Re-signed

A couple of familiar faces returned to the Redskins yesterday with the signing of safety Rico Labbe and running back George Searcy for the NFL's newly resurrected developmental squads.

Searcy was cut midway through training camp, but Labbe, who played at Archbishop Carroll High, lasted until the final cut. He was a fourth-round draft pick and after being let go had tryouts with the Packers, Lions and Seahawks.

Otherwise, he has been working out at a health club in Wheaton, running at the Carroll track and serving as an informal assistant coach at Carroll.

"It came down to numbers when I was let go," he said. "Coach Gibbs and Coach {Richie} Petitbon talked to me and said that they put me and Clarence {Vaughn} on waivers. If Clarence hadn't cleared, they were going to bring me back."

He thought he'd had a decent training camp and said: "When it first happens, you're shell-shocked. You come this far and think it's over. But you pick yourself back up."

He had begun phoning local television and radio stations looking for work, but said that now he's glad to give football another try.

"The thing is, teams had me in mind," he said. "I was getting workouts and was on the brink. I figured I must be getting another chance. This developmental squad is a godsend for a young player like me."