ASHBURN, Va. -- The long-standing debate about the detriments of NFL preseason games outweighing the benefits came painfully to light for the Washington Redskins in their 19-3 loss Sunday night to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
A partially dislocated shoulder for starting tailback Clinton Portis was one of three serious injuries the Redskins sustained, but won't be enough to make coach Joe Gibbs rethink how he will use his front-line players in the remaining three preseason games, starting Saturday night against the New York Jets at FedEx Field.
Portis, who set the team's single-season rushing record last year with 1,516 yards, sustained the injury to his left shoulder while tackling Keiwan Ratliff after the Bengals cornerback intercepted a pass by Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell on the opening series of the game.
X-rays taken at the stadium were negative, but a magnetic resonance imaging test later revealed the dislocation. That diagnosis was confirmed yesterday when Portis went to Alabama to be examined by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. After rest and rehabilitation, Portis could be back for the Sept. 11 opener against Minnesota.
"I know he'll work extremely hard at it, I know he wants to play," Gibbs said yesterday. "We've got an extremely tough guy there. Last year I couldn't count how many times he got hit where I said he'll probably have to come out for a while and he never does. We'll hope and pray for the best."
This marks the second time in the three seasons since Gibbs came out of retirement that the Redskins have lost a key player to injury in their opening exhibition. Two years ago, starting tackle Jon Jansen ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the Hall of Fame Game and was out for the season.
Asked if he would consider playing his starters less in the preseason, Gibbs said, "When you back off, how much further can you back off? If you back off, you hurt the preparation for your team. It's one of the toughest things in football, it's a balancing act, how much you play guys, how much you run the risk of getting them hurt."
Without Portis, it is expected that Ladell Betts will assume the No. 1 tailback position. Betts, who sat out the Cincinnati game with a strained hamstring, gained 338 yards on 89 carries and scored one touchdown in 12 games last season. He also missed four games with a knee injury.
"I would say that Ladell is very important to us, and he has been for the last two years," Gibbs said. "He's done everything we've asked. When we played him - Clinton has been so healthy - the one time he did get to play, he was over 100 yards. We like Ladell Betts. I'm glad we've got Ladell Betts."
The Redskins are running out of healthy running backs. Kerry Carter, a free agent who played with Seattle in 2003 and 2004, sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Bengals. Jesse Lumsden, another free agent, will return this week after missing some time with a hip injury.
Portis displayed some frustration with the fact that he was on the field when he was injured.
"After that 8-yard run [on the first play], I was like, `Get me out of that game,'" Portis said after the game. "That's what I was thinking. It's football. It can happen to anyone. It happened to me. For whoever's watching: Let's get rid of some of these games. Four [preseason] games is ridiculous."
Notes -- The Redskins announced last night that wide receiver Taylor Jacobs has been traded to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive back Mike Rumph. Jacobs fought injuries in Washington since being drafted in the second round out of Florida in 2003 and sat out the Bengals game with a pulled hamstring. Rumph, a first-round pick out of Miami in 2002, also was hampered by injuries the past two years after starting 13 games in 2003. He can play both cornerback and safety. ... Aside from the injuries to Portis and Carter, linebacker Chris Clemons sustained a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee against the Bengals. Clemons suffered a similar injury to his right knee last season. ... Today's practice, which begins at 4:30 p.m, is the final chance for fans to see the team work out.