- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Malcolm Kelly tried to make Monday no big deal. It was just an organized team activity, and Kelly has caught passes in NFL games. And he had been running routes on the Redskin Park fields the past few weeks, testing his oft-repaired left knee.

But there were still smiles when the second-year receiver from Oklahoma participated with everyone else as the Washington Redskins resumed OTAs.

Kelly hadn’t juked a cornerback since his injury-marred rookie season ended in December with only three catches for 18 yards in five games. On orders from Redskins owner Dan Snyder and executive vice president Vinny Cerrato with input from team doctors and trainers, Kelly had the knee scoped in January for the second time in five months. He stayed off the field until May and didn’t test a defender until Monday.

“When I rolled out of my bed this morning, I was like, ‘It’s been a long time coming,’ ” Kelly said. “I was just anxious to get back out there. It’s one thing to run against air for the last two or three weeks, but when you have to read the coverages, it makes it a little more complicated.”

Kelly said the knee - which caused some teams to shy away from him before the Redskins chose him with the 51st pick in 2008 - wasn’t an issue Monday. Coach Jim Zorn, frustrated when Kelly and fellow second-round receiver Devin Thomas flunked the conditioning test that began training camp last summer, wasn’t so sanguine - not after Kelly’s knee was a problem throughout 2008.

“What was nice was that we didn’t have to give him any rest,” Zorn said. “He just took his normal reps. We didn’t limit him in any way. … That was a tremendous sign, but ask me again tomorrow because I’m hopeful we can do it again.”

Veteran Santana Moss had a rookie year with the New York Jets that was eerily similar to Kelly’s. Moss, a first-rounder in 2001, injured his left knee during his rookie training camp and caught just two passes for 40 yards in five games.

So Moss has made a point of reassuring Kelly that he can learn from his tough start.

“You gotta go through hardship and see how it feels,” Moss said. “I didn’t know how to take it because I was young. I look back on it and say it built me to be where I am now.”

For all his innate gifts and hard work, the 5-foot-10 Moss can never match the size of the 6-4 Kelly. So the Redskins hope the 22-year-old, who caught 111 passes for 1,814 yards and 19 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Oklahoma, will be the big receiver they have lacked for years.

“His hands are absolutely awesome,” Zorn said. “He’s one of these guys that can pluck the ball with one hand out of the air. But as big as he is, his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage is something to watch. What I’m looking for is to help improve him as he moves downfield, as he’s coming out of breaks, because he is tall.”

As for Kelly, he’s aiming to be on the field for the final seven OTAs, to pass the conditioning test in July and then to produce the way he believes he can.

“You don’t want to be sitting over there watching everybody else play, especially when you’ve been making plays your whole life,” he said. “That’s what really pushes me every day. Going into this season, I got a big chip on my shoulder. I got a lot to prove.”

Notes - The starters who skipped May’s OTAs - running back Clinton Portis, fullback Mike Sellers, linebacker London Fletcher and safety LaRon Landry - were joined Monday by cornerback Carlos Rogers, who was ill. Rookie cornerback Kevin Barnes also was sick. …

After sitting out in May with shin splints, Moss was back on his 30th birthday with a new, short haircut. Receiver James Thrash (neck) remained out, as did rookie fullback Eddie Williams (knee). Tackle Chris Samuels (triceps) took some work in team drills, but guard Randy Thomas and tackle Devin Clark rested ailing knees.