- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

Maryland safety Chris Kelley will play against Northern Illinois tomorrow despite suffering a minor knee ailment Wednesday.

Kelley practiced yesterday after “tweaking” his left knee the previous day. Kelley, who is expected to join cornerback Domonique Foxworth as cornerstones of the secondary, had a strong summer camp and seemed poised for a breakout season after enduring three major knee injuries in his career.

“If we didn’t have Chris, it would hurt us quite a bit,” coach Ralph Friedgen said.

The battered defensive line is less stable. End Kevin Eli (hamstring) and tackles Justin Duffie (Crohn’s disease) and Rob Armstrong (back) are expected to start, but Friedgen was uncertain how long each would play. All three missed significant parts of preseason workouts but practiced this week.

“I’m just happy we’ll get something out of them,” Friedgen said.

Meanwhile, Northern Illinois quarterback Josh Haldi is questionable with a stress fracture in his foot. Coach Joe Novak said the availability of Haldi, who has practiced this week, would be a game-time decision.

Statham: Hit me

Quarterback Joel Statham said he probably needs to endure a couple knockdowns before playing well in the opener. A slow starter in scrimmages and the spring game, he typically improved after a few series.

“I’m pretty nervous already,” he said. “I probably won’t go to sleep [tonight]. After the first couple plays, I’ll be all right. I’ve been looking forward since coming here for a real chance to play. I’ll try to enjoy it.”

The normally reserved Statham has become more of a leader in recent weeks. Usually not much of a talker, he recently discussed playing video games for 10 minutes. It could be a sign that Statham is more comfortable entering his first career start.

“He’s not a real verbal guy,” Friedgen said. “It’s really taken him awhile in the huddle. The one thing he isn’t doing as much as he used to do is, when he used to make a mistake he used to laugh, and it drove me nuts. Then I realized it’s a defense mechanism. He’s not really laughing. He’s really saying, ‘How stupid could I be?’ ”

After recovering his own fumble in practice recently, Statham told Friedgen he really was improving. Last year Statham said someone else would have recovered the loose ball. He wasn’t joking either.

“Sometimes he doesn’t exude the confidence you’d like,” Friedgen said. “Lately he has more. If he misses something now, it’s like, ‘I got it, don’t worry about it, Coach, ‘ and comes back and does it right.”

Extra points

Friedgen has overseen the offense the last two days while coordinator Charlie Taaffe attended his father’s funeral. Taaffe is expected back today.

“Defense is very important, but I know how things need to be on offense,” Friedgen said. “I probably should spend more time with the defense.”…

The Terps first five home games are sellouts, but tickets remain for the Wake Forest game Nov. 27. … “Breakfast with Fridge” begins 7 a.m. at the university’s Inn and Conference Center today. Friedgen meets with fans on Fridays preceding home games. Admission is free. … Friedgen will attend the 1974 Terps reunion tonight. He coached many as freshmen. … The Terps radio coverage, including WMAL-AM (630), has 90-minute pre- and postgame shows for home games. Friedgen’s Tuesday press conferences will be on wmucsports.com.

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