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Notes, quotes and observations (Sun, 8/29)

The Redskins returned to work today with an hour-long walkthrough without pads. Some notes, quotes and observations from the day:

*QB Donovan McNabb (sprained left ankle) definitely will not play Thursday against Arizona, coach Mike Shanahan said. Furthermore, Shanahan left open the possibility that the injury could affect his availability for the season opener against Dallas, which, by the way, is two weeks from tonight.

“I really don’t know for sure,” Shanahan said. “That’s why it’s day by day. Hopefully it won’t be.”

Shanahan likes to keep other teams (and us reporters) guessing the injury status of players, so it’s no surprise that he’d throw out there a little ambiguity regarding McNabb. Considering that McNabb stayed in the Baltimore game last week after getting hurt, though, I’d be absolutely shocked if he didn’t start against Dallas.

*WR Malcolm Kelly (left hamstring) participated in today’s walkthrough and he expects to fully participate in practice tomorrow. If all goes well, he’ll play extensively in Thursday’s preseason finale against Arizona. Kelly ran some routes at full speed on Thursday and Saturday, so he believes he’s ready to practice for the first time since the first day of training camp.

After talking to Kelly, I feel more confident than ever that he’s going to make the final 53-man roster. He believes coaches have already decided, for the most part, which receivers are going to make the team. And if they’re planning on giving him an extended look on Thursday, that bodes well for him. After all, they could have given up on him long ago.

Of course, I could be reading the situation wrong. But it appears that Kelly’s upside is compensating for his inability to practice for the last month. It says something about the quality of the other receivers on the roster.

Kelly spoke about his reputation for being injury prone and some fans’ belief that the Redskins made a mistake in drafting him.

“It is what it is,” Kelly said. “The one year where I was healthy and was able to get out there [last year], I started [nine] games, and even that whole time if you look at the whole entire receiving corps, nobody had a great year. So it is what it is. And then toward the end of the season once they did start throwing me the ball, I was successful. I really couldn’t care less about, aw, well, we made a mistake. I’m here now, so I really couldn’t care less about that.”

Kelly also was asked what would be a successful night on Thursday.

“Go out there, get a few grabs,” he said. “More than anything just show them that you know the playbook. That’s the thing they want to see if you’ve been studying, especially since I’ve been out. Has my head still been in the game since I haven’t’ been out there practicing? That’s the biggest thing. I know when the ball comes to me I’ll catch the ball, but it’s about being in the right place at the right time, giving the offense a chance to be successful.”

*Following Albert Haynesworth’s light-hearted comments on Friday regarding his relationship with Mike Shanahan, Shanahan gave us the answer to the question we reporters were asking last week on the matter.

“The one thing you want to have with players, everybody would like to be liked, that’s part of being a head football coach, but you want to be respected as well,” he said. “I have a job to do and Albert has a job to do. He wants to be the best player he can possibly be and it’s my job to see to it. Albert’s had a couple very good practices. He’s been working hard to get the defensive end position down and the nose tackle position down. It takes time when you miss practice. Hopefully he keeps on improving.”

Shanahan smirked at Haynesworth’s joke that they would share dinner and cigars Friday night.

“He made me buy the drinks and cigars,” Shanahan said.

He cracked up the media with that one.

*In other injury news, RB Clinton Portis (right ankle) and FB Mike Sellers (left knee) are day-to-day. LB Perry Riley has a mild right ankle sprain.

It’s highly unlikely that Portis or Sellers plays against Arizona. In fact, there’s a chance that neither the starting offense nor defense plays in that game. Shanahan said he’ll give us a better idea of playing time distribution later in the week.

*Shanahan isn’t worried about the running game after two games of low production.

“First of all, we’ve played two pretty good defenses and haven’t had much of a game plan,” he said. “Our running game will get there. It’s a process. But a very respectable defense we played against the Jets and also Baltimore. Two very good teams, and you really have to have a game plan and be committed to run the ball against those two teams. It won’t be much tougher than that.”

I suppose I’ll buy that. However, they averaged only 3.4 yards on 41 carries against Buffalo, so it’s not like they were steamrolling that defense, either. But the game-planning aspect is huge, not to mention the fact that Clinton Portis—the Redskins’ best running back—didn’t start the last two weeks.

*Devin Thomas is expected to play receiver against Arizona after not playing on offense against New York. I don’t believe Thomas is in trouble. He contributes in too many ways (return game, kick coverage, solid downfield blocker) to be left off the final roster.

*Rookie seventh-round pick Selvish Capers is expected to play some guard against Arizona after playing exclusively tackle so far. Capers hasn’t played his way onto the 53-man roster. He has struggled in games with his technique, and his athleticism hasn’t been evident. Perhaps some game experience at guard would give him something to build on as a member of the practice squad.

*Just a reminder: The Redskins must cut five players to reduce their roster to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday. The final 53-man roster is due on Saturday at 4 p.m.