Washington Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook has been cleared by doctors to resume his career with no restrictions when the team opens training camp in 12 days, General Manager Charley Casserly said yesterday.
Orthopedist Robert Watkins, who performed surgery on Westbrook in January to repair a herniated disk in his neck, examined Westbrook last week and gave his approval for Westbrook to resume full-scale football activities, according to Casserly.
Meanwhile, the Redskins have made a contract offer to their first-round draft pick, cornerback Champ Bailey, worth more than $8 million over five years, sources close to the situation said.
Also, Ken Harvey's representative said yesterday it remains possible that the veteran linebacker will renegotiate his contract and play the upcoming season for the Redskins at a reduced salary, rather than retiring.
The Redskins are scheduled to open training camp in Frostburg, Md., on July 25. Team officials are negotiating with a pair of free agents, running back Lawrence Phillips and defensive end Charles Haley, and would like to sign Bailey and resolve the Harvey situation in plenty of time for training camp.
Westbrook's health was a major offseason concern for the Redskins, but Casserly said yesterday that he and other team officials are confident the wide receiver will be ready to play at full speed from the outset of training camp. Watkins's pronouncement confirmed what club officials had seen from Westbrook during his offseason workouts and the team's minicamps, Casserly said.
"I thought the progress was there throughout the offseason," Casserly said. "Everything was good. Everything was positive. I was operating under the assumption all along he'd be all right. It [the examination by Watkins] is something you have to do, but I'd have been shocked if he had said anything else."
Westbrook had a career-best season last year, with 44 catches for 736 yards and six touchdowns, even after being benched by Coach Norv Turner for two games after missing a team meeting and walk-through the day before a game. The Redskins need Westbrook to anchor their thin wide receiver corps this season. His 1998 season ended in Week 13 when his head was rammed to the turf on a tackle by San Diego Chargers cornerback Charles Dimry, and initially the Redskins feared that Westbrook's injury might be career-ending.
Casserly said he also expects quarterback Brad Johnson, who underwent a pair of offseason knee surgeries, to be ready to play from the outset of training camp.
Guard Tre Johnson continues to rehabilitate the knee injury that ended his '98 season and could be limited early in training camp. But Casserly said he's not aware of any current injuries that would threaten to sideline any of the team's front-line players from the opening preseason game next month.
The Redskins have signed all of the players they selected in April's college draft except for Bailey. They're negotiating with Bailey's Atlanta-based agent, Jack Reale, and are hopeful of completing an agreement before training camp, but no deal appears imminent.
The St. Louis Rams signed the player taken immediately before Bailey in the draft, wide receiver Torry Holt, to a five-year, $10 million deal. The Redskins apparently would like to sign Bailey for slightly less than that. But so far that hasn't satisfied Reale and Bailey, and it may take the urgency of the final few days before training camp to spur an agreement. Casserly declined to comment on the negotiations yesterday, and Reale was not available.
Harvey said last week he plans to make a decision about his future after speaking to Casserly and Turner this week. Redskins officials have told Harvey they would like him to retire or agree to a financial settlement that would accompany him being waived, but Harvey said last week he'd like to play this season. His agent, Steve Baker, said yesterday that Harvey would be willing to renegotiate his contract to play. "If Ken plays this year, that would be the circumstance," Baker said. "We're still in conversations. The Redskins have been extremely fair. They've been very conscious of what Ken has meant to the franchise."
CAPTION: The Redskins have signed all players selected in April's draft except for first-round pick Champ Bailey.
CAPTION: Wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who had neck surgery in January, can go full speed at training camp.
CAPTION: Linebacker Ken Harvey may be willing to rework contract in order to play for Redskins this season.