- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ASHBURN — A hairstyle nine years in the making was gone in 30 minutes.

In the offseason, Rob Kelley decided it was time to cut off his dreadlocks. After an injury-plagued 2017, the Redskins running back wanted a fresh start — so he opted for his first haircut in nine years.

Normally, Kelley said, barbers will test the waters by trimming the neckline, just in case of any last-second doubts. His barber didn’t do that.

“He started at the front and cut like right here,” Kelley said, pointing to his closely cropped hairline. “I had no choice but to keep going.”

Kelley didn’t mind. Entering his third season, the 25-year-old said he wants the focus to be on his play.

Last season, Kelley rushed for just 194 yards in seven games for three touchdowns. He was hurt for most of the season with a bruised rib, an ankle injury and eventually a season-ending MCL sprain.

The injuries made it hard to find a rhythm, and he was shut down in November.

It was a disappointing follow-up on a productive 2016 where he ran for 704 yards and captured the starting job midway through the season as an undrafted rookie.

Now healthy, Kelley returns to a crowded running back room. The Redskins also drafted Derrius Guice in the second round with the expectation that he would revamp their rushing attack. 

Kelley isn’t guaranteed to make the roster — let alone regain his status as a starter. But he’s motivated.

“It’s our job to create our own value on this team,” Kelley said. “So that’s what I’m doing.”

Chris Thompson, who’s had a career’s worth of experience with injuries, offered advice on bouncing back to Kelley.

“One of his things last year, he just worried so much about having a great year and not being injured, and that ended up happening,” Thompson said. “So just letting him know, ‘You’ve got to be free. Just play ball.’ … I think he’s over that now and he’s been doing good.”

Kelley will have to earn his reps. On Wednesday, he floated between the first and second units.

Coach Jay Gruden said he wants to see consistency from Kelley “in all phases,” but the running back has created a positive impression so far. He added Kelley has made strides in pass protection and in running routes.

“Rob’s never been an issue as far as work ethic is concerned,” Gruden said. “He’s always gone out and done his job and been very engaging in the meetings, comes out here and takes what he learned in the meeting room and accepts the challenge and plays well. So Rob’s doing a good job.”

Kelley has even lost more weight. Once known as “Fat Rob,” Kelley showed up last year at OTAs down from 18 percent body fat to 13.

This year, he’s slimmed down further — but he doesn’t want to say by how much.

“People don’t want to hear that no more,” Kelley said. “My thing, I just want to go out and show guys what I’m doing instead of just talking about it. They hear the same thing all the time, so it’s about showing it at this point.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories