CARLISLE, Pa. -- Charles Mann called his wife during the lunch break yesterday with a brief message from training camp: "Hey, I'm back."
Mann, a veteran Washington Redskins defensive end who was outfitted with a custom-made brace on his ailing right knee Thursday, decided to take a short turn in practice for the first time during training camp, and he was pleased with the results.
"It was very positive, very positive. It was just a matter of getting out there and doing it. I did it. As far as I'm concerned, I can go," he said.
Mann, who had been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic surgery for the sixth time on his right knee Feb. 3, said after the practice: "My knees are a little stiff right now, but it felt normal. It felt strange [practicing], because I hadn't done it in six months. I felt today like the guys felt the first practice. They've got an edge on me."
Mann, who had planned to go only in individual drills before deciding to try practicing, now wants to catch up in a hurry. He said he plans to go full time in practice next week.
Defensive line coach LaVern Torgeson said: "He looked pretty good. I think he did well."
Torgeson didn't rule out the possibility of using Mann for a play or two tomorrow night against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first exhibition game, although it's likely that he'll sit it out.
Mann said he was watching practice when defensive end Markus Koch took a short break to go to the bathroom.
"I sneaked in there. Torgy didn't even know what was going on. I seized the opportunity. The first group was standing there, and I told Fred [Stokes, another defensive end], 'I think I'm going to go in,' " Mann said.
Stokes said, "No, don't do it."
Mann replied, "Man, I'm going to go."
Stokes again said, "No, don't do it. Don't go out there."
Mann had the last word: "Fred, I'm going. You go to the right, and I'll go left.
"They called, 'First group,' and I ran in there. I think I probably went through a play or two before people realized I was out there," Mann said.
Stokes, who has been playing in Mann's spot on the left side, switched to Koch's place on the right side during Mann's stint.
Mann went about seven plays, got himself a sack, fought off a tight end's block and didn't have any problem with his knees.
He said he can do a 230-pound leg press with his ailing right knee and a 250-pound leg press on his healthy left one, and he plans to close the gap quickly.
It's hard to underestimate what a healthy Mann will mean to the defense.
Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs the defense, said: "Until he starts playing, that's a big hole. For us to be successful, he's not only going to have to come back, he's going to have to come back and play well."
Mann is a leader for the Redskins on and off the field.
When the Redskins veterans decided they'd like to convince coach Joe Gibbs to end his opposition to the team's playing an exhibition game in Europe because it could disrupt training camp, it was Mann who talked to him.
Gibbs said he'd change his mind and will let the team play in Europe -- he prefers a London game -- if the team is invited.
When the NFL wanted a player to appear in an anti-steroids video with commissioner Paul Tagliabue, it called on Mann.
Mann even did a trading card with an anti-steroids message.
NOTES: A league spokesman said it was "good news" that Gibbs has dropped his opposition to playing in Europe. The NFL likes to send its playoff teams overseas, and the Giants and Redskins, winners of 3 of the past 5 Super Bowls, have refused to go in the past. The league also feels a team from Washington would be popular in Europe. Gibbs did say he still won't go to Tokyo because he thinks the trip is too long. . . . Mark Rypien will start at quarterback against Pittsburgh tomorrow, but Gibbs won't say which quarterbacks will play after him. . . . Plan B running back John Settle reinjured his ribs Thursday -- he may have suffered a hairline fracture -- and won't play against the Steelers.