- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

Coach Jim Zorn said Billy McMullen is one player who could benefit from rookie receiver Devin Thomas‘ two-week absence with a pulled hamstring. McMullen has yet to fulfill the potential in the NFL that he showed while becoming the first player to lead Virginia in catches four years running and as Philadelphia’s third-round pick in the 2003 draft.

McMullen caught 22 passes in 29 games for the Eagles from 2003 to 2005 before following former Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress to Minnesota in 2006. The 28-year-old caught 23 passes for the Vikings but failed to make the team again last summer and was out of football in 2007.

The Richmond native signed with the Redskins in January because they were close to home and they only had starting receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, former regular James Thrash and inexperienced reserve Anthony Mix under contract. However, the selections of Thomas and fellow receiver Malcolm Kelly in the second round meant that barring a major injury, there wasn’t a job to be won if Washington kept five receivers.

“Billy’s got good size, he can run and he’s got the wingspan to make catches up here,” Redskins wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said. “I tell all these guys just keep making plays and even if there’s not a job here, 31 other teams are watching.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound McMullen knows the odds are against him, but the religious studies graduate hasn’t lost faith in himself.

“I knew that the Redskins would probably draft a big receiver, but even after they drafted two, I didn’t lose confidence,” McMullen said. “I’ve got a big body. I’m pretty quick for my size and I run good routes. All I can do is keep making plays.”

Injury update

Zorn said Kelly’s “hamstring knotted up,” and he is not expected to participate in the scrimmage Saturday. A team official said he has a right hamstring injury and a sore knee. Cornelius Griffin missed practice with a sore left knee.

Mix has a right hamstring strain and was held out of special teams practice in the afternoon. Defensive lineman J.T. Mapu has a sprained left MCL. Mapu made a tackle during 11-on-11 and came up limping. Offensive tackle Kerry Brown injured his left shoulder.

Tailback Ladell Betts also suffered an injury during the full contact session. Zorn said he was kicked in the thigh, but Betts returned to practice. Safety LaRon Landry was in full pads but was confined to some stretching and lunging exercises. Wide receiver Devin Thomas, defensive ends Erasmus James and Kris Wilson and safety Kareem Moore didn’t practice.

Official meeting

Referee Jeff Triplette led a meeting with the local media about rules changes and points of emphasis for the upcoming season. There was a video to help illustrate the changes, which include most prominently the removal of the “force out” rule for catches along the sideline and incidental face mask contact no longer warrants a five-yard penalty. Points of emphasis will include misconduct penalties like taunting and excessive celebration and hits to the head and below the knee to quarterbacks.

The video featured several Redskins players, including the hit Jason Campbell took in the preseason game against Pittsburgh last season and Landry’s head-to-head collision with Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens. The film also featured an illegal chop block by tackle Chris Samuels and a taunting infraction by safety Stuart Schweigert.

Fullback Mike Sellers found out how serious the officials are about taunting. He playfully flipped a football off a defensive players’ backside after scoring a touchdown during a goal line drill, and an official immediately tossed a flag in the air - much to ire of the fans nearby.

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