Showing no effects of the neck surgery he underwent in January, Washington Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook strapped on a helmet during minicamp yesterday and took part in a handful of passing plays.

It was the first time Westbrook had caught passes against an opponent--in this case, rookie cornerback Champ Bailey--since his season was cut short last year by a herniated disk in his neck against San Diego in Week 13.

"It felt good," Westbrook said. "It was a little weird at first. I was a little nervous. But I took my two plays, and I was back home."

Added Coach Norv Turner: "Obviously it's a sign that he's feeling pretty confident about where he is."

Team officials had said Westbrook wouldn't be ready for contact drills before training camp opened on July 25. But after running routes in one-on-one drills, Westbrook asked receivers Coach Terry Robiskie to put him in for a few plays during team drills. He was used on specific passing plays in which there was a remote chance of sustaining contact. Westbrook was never hit and made his receptions with ease.

"I've got to get used to it," Westbrook said. "We're not doing a whole lot, but just enough so that I won't be shocked to death during training camp."

Westbrook's form impressed Bailey. "He came out real aggressive, just like on film," Bailey said. "For the first day back, he looked real good. I think he'll be 110 percent by training camp; he looks to be 100 to me now."

Robiskie said he didn't hesitate to put Westbrook in.

"Obviously I can't be the doctor, but when he says he feels pretty good and he moves around good and looks pretty good, I'm comfortable with it," Robiskie said. "I think he's coming along good, physically and mentally."

Westbrook, a first-round draft pick, has yet to play a 16-game season or reach his potential in four seasons with the Redskins. He was on his best pace to date, with 44 receptions, when a hard hit left him with a herniated disk Dec. 6.

The full extent of his recovery won't be clear, of course, until he faces contact during a game. In the interim, Redskins officials consider him a starter, along with third-year player Albert Connell.

Redskins Notes: Cornerback Darryl Pounds broke a bone in his left hand and Tim Denton also suffered a hand fracture in practice Thursday. That meant extra work yesterday for Bailey, the rookie. Both Pounds and Denton are expected to be fully recovered when training camp opens next month in Frostburg, Md. . . .

Defensive end Marco Coleman was impressive on his first day of practice. "He had a couple real good pass rushes," Turner said. "Marco is going to help us."