Portis will play in opener

Healing Redskins running back likely to be in backup role against Vikings tomorrow night

Pro Football

September 10, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

ASHBURN, Va. -- Two days after Clinton Portis said he was "75 percent" recovered from a partially dislocated left shoulder and one day after Portis said he might not make it back for even the second game of the season, the Washington Redskins announced that their star running back would play in tomorrow night's season opener.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that he would use Portis, who last season set the franchise single-season rushing record with 1,516 yards, in a backup role against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field. Ladell Betts would start, but Portis is expected to get onto the field.

"We'll kind of let the game portray what role that will be," Gibbs said after practice at Redskins Park.

How effective Portis will be remains a question, since he said Thursday that he wasn't in top condition after missing all but the first possession of the preseason, when he was injured against the Cincinnati Bengals making a tackle after an interception.

How susceptible Portis is to re-injuring the shoulder is also a concern, since he didn't take any physical contact after returning to the practice field Thursday. Portis joked yesterday that he was "93.9 percent" healthy and that he had a couple of days to get completely healed and ready to play.

"It helped me a lot," Portis said of playing tomorrow night rather than today. "Hopefully I'll be 100 [percent] by Monday. That'll give me two days of rest and doing nothing, it'll strengthen it. Hopefully in these two days I'll pick up 6 percent and hopefully get to rumble on Monday."

Asked how the lack of contact might affect him, Portis said: "We haven't had a lot of physical contact since I've been trying to go. So it's basically mental, being in the right place and doing the right things, getting timing down just in case."

Gibbs said all along that it would be left up to Portis to see whether he would play, a drastic change of past policy where players had to show the coaches and medical staff they were physically able to play, particularly in Portis' case by taking a few hits on the shoulder. Gibbs took exception to a line of questioning that suggested he was "throwing" Portis back in before his star was ready.

"He's practiced," Gibbs said. "I'm not `throwing him in' there."

If anything, Portis will give the Redskins and their fans an emotional lift after a lackluster preseason in which the team lost all four games and was outplayed badly in each.

"The things he can do for us emotionally are incredible," running backs coach Earnest Byner said. "The energy he brings to the game, the liveliness he brings, it's going to be a big emotional lift. The fans are going to go crazy, but our guys are going to get pumped up. If he breaks a run, we're really set for something exciting Monday night."

Note -- The Redskins downgraded defensive end Renaldo Wynn to doubtful because of a sprained right ankle, and he will likely join cornerback Shawn Springs, who is still doubtful after abdominal surgery, on the sideline. don.markus@baltsun.com

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