ASHBURN, Va. - The Andre Reed of 10 years ago wouldn't have been a drop-off.
Today's version of Reed, however, is far below the level of Michael Westbrook, the man Reed replaced on the Washington Redskins' roster.
Westbrook, who led the Redskins in yards (1,191), catches (65) and touchdowns (nine) last year, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Sunday's 15-10 loss to the Detroit Lions and is out for the season.
The Redskins signed Reed, 36, on Tuesday, but they know he's not as good as Westbrook. What they are hoping to get is a fraction of the player who became the NFL's second all-time leader in receptions (941) while playing 15 seasons in Buffalo.
"We're all different," Redskins passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie said. "I'm a different coach than I was 10 years ago. He can still catch it. He's not the same guy he was 10 years ago. He is not the same guy he was two years ago. But the one thing he can still do is catch the ball."
The question is, can he still get open? Reed thinks so. That's why he asked out of Denver, which picked up Reed after the Bills released him this past off-season, a day before the opening game.
Reed signed a one-year, $500,000 contract with the Redskins and practiced for the first time yesterday. The coaches are hoping to use him in a limited role in Monday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. Reed will see action in three- or four-wide receiver sets until he becomes comfortable with the offense.
"Terry spent some time with [Reed] with the playbook," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "We just tried to get him through our base routes.
"He looks good. He has very good quickness. He catches the ball extremely well, and he's got great experience. You can get a guy ready to play in a game in four or five days in some limited things. We'll see how it goes over the next few days."
Reed said he had settled into a pre-retirement mind-set during his 10 days off. Once Westbrook went down, he got a call from close friend and former Buffalo teammate Bruce Smith.
Smith encouraged Reed to sign with the Redskins.
"We had a nice little 30-, 40-minute chat about things," Reed said. "He just reassured me of what kind of situation it is and the organization.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics about Denver and why I wanted to leave there. I think I was a little bit misled about what my role was going to be. Here, they are straight up with me.
"Everybody thought I was gone. They thought I jumped ship - out on the golf course playing golf. I'm not ready to do that yet. The coaches' confidence in me is pretty high. They have confidence that I can step in there and do the job, which I will."
Irving Fryar will start alongside Albert Connell against Dallas.
Unless James Thrash, who has 15 catches in three seasons with the Redskins, steps up big, the starting role is Fryar's to keep. Reed will eventually move up to the third wide-out, and Thrash will retain his role as a fourth wide receiver and special teams ace.
To be starting on a team that is supposed to contend for the Super Bowl is not something Fryar anticipated when he came out of retirement during the summer of 1999.
"Even being a third-down receiver or playing up to the point I'm playing now, I did not think that was going to happen," Fryar said. "It is a blessing."
It will be quite a sight when Reed and Fryar line up together, a lot scarier for defenses 13 years ago than now. The two have 33 years of football experience - the most experienced receiver tandem in the NFL - with some productive seasons for both spanning back to the mid 1980s. What they have in knowledge, however, they lack in speed. Connell is the only proven deep threat on the Redskins' roster.
"I know I got two guys that are 10 years older than 10 years ago," Robiskie said. "You have to be able to pace them. I think the key to it is we have two of them. When one guy gets real weary, we'll just put the other one in."
NOTES: Cornerback Deion Sanders (bruised ankle), defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson (bruised shoulder) and guard Keith Sims (Achilles' tendinitis) missed practice yesterday but should be ready for Monday's game. Running back Skip Hicks (knee) practiced but is questionable. Center Cory Raymer's rehabilitation is coming along faster than expected, and he may be ready to return to practice next week. ... Turner is not sure whether he will play cornerback Champ Bailey at receiver against Dallas. Bailey has practiced there some over the past week. He had 47 catches for 744 yards and five touchdowns when he was a junior at the University of Georgia.