Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Redskins’ options regarding WR Malcolm Kelly
Wideout Malcolm Kelly aggravated his left hamstring injury during practice this morning, a significant setback for the third-year player. Kelly returned to practice today after missing a month recovering from a left hamstring strain, but he didn’t make it through the 90-minute session.
Coach Mike Shanahan was unsure of the exact severity of the injury, but he said trainers told him it was a “pretty good pull.”
The situation is ripe for second-guessing. In hindsight, the Redskins probably should have put Kelly on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list before training camp started. If they had, he would have been eligible after the preseason for the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list.
Players on the Reserve/PUP list do not count against a team’s final 53-man roster. The downside, though, is that they aren’t eligible to be moved to the active roster until Week 6.
Players on the Active/PUP list are eligible to come off it and join the active roster at any time, so if the team determined Kelly was healthy along the way, he could have practiced with no problem. Of course, the point is moot if Kelly or the team believes he’s healthy when he really isn’t.
“If we didn’t think he was healthy enough, then we wouldn’t have practiced him,” Shanahan said today.
As it stands, Kelly became ineligible for both PUP lists when he participated in the first training camp practice, the one in which he aggravated his offseason hamstring injury the first time.
I thought Kelly was going to make the roster if he stayed healthy this week. He was convinced that he would make it by staying healthy and proving that he knows the playbook.
Now, the Redskins have three options:
1. Put Kelly on injured reserve — That would make Kelly ineligible to play or practice with the team this season. It would basically be a lost year in his development, but the Redskins would protect his rights for next year. The question then becomes, do they believe it’s worth protecting his rights considering his extensive injury history?
2. Release/Waive Kelly — Kelly would become a free agent, and the Redskins would sever ties with the receiver prospect. Shanahan, however, gave the indication today that he’s not inclined to give up on young, injured players who show potential.
“I’ve had people that have had injuries for three or four years before they get their opportunity to play in the National Football League,” he said. “They’re just pretty unlucky, and all of the sudden they have a pretty good career. Jesse Sapolu, our center in San Francisco, had some rough times in the first part of his career and played  years. Some guys unfortunately have that injury they just can’t overcome something, and Malcolm is dealing with that right now.”
3. Keep Kelly on the final 53-man roster — The Redskins would protect Kelly’s rights, but they’d use a valuable roster spot on a player whose availability is uncertain in the short and long term. Think about it like this: Kelly missed the last month and it wasn’t enough time. So if this injury is just as serious, you’d have to assume he’d miss at least another month. A six-week recovery would keep him out of the first month of the regular season. And whenever he comes back, what’s the guarantee that this doesn’t happen again? Another nugget worth mentioning: the Redskins decided to keep Kelly on the 53-man roster as a rookie instead of putting him on IR with a left knee injury. He caught only three passes and was inactive for 11 games.
…Now, why don’t you play GM here? Keep in mind that Kelly has good size (6-4, 226), good hands but a troublesome injury history. What should the Redskins do with him?