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Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Redskins RB Portis placed on IR

Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- Clinton Portis' season was ruined in the first quarter of the first preseason game, when he decided to launch his body into Cincinnati cornerback Keiwan Ratliff while making a tackle following an interception.

Four injuries later, Portis' season officially ended Wednesday, when the Washington Redskins placed their star running back on injured reserve. His final tallies for the season: 127 carries, 523 yards, seven touchdowns, two shoulder injuries, one sprained ankle, one broken bone -- and only one costume.

"It was a rough year," Portis said. "It wasn't meant for us. It wasn't meant for me. Over the years, it's been lovely for me, and now I'm finally running into a bump in my road."

Portis broke a bone in his right hand in Sunday's 27-3 loss at Philadelphia. He had surgery Monday and would have been sidelined at least a month.

Rather than have him return, the Redskins (3-6) want to make sure he gets completely healthy. He'll undergo another operation, this time a shoulder surgery that will require four to five months of rehabilitation, with the goal of returning at full strength in 2007.

"It seemed like every time he got to feeling better, something else would happen," coach Joe Gibbs said. "He never really got back to the form that he had last year."

Portis' injury means the Redskins are making two major changes on offense for this week's game at Tampa Bay. Ladell Betts is the new starting running back, and Mark Brunell has been benched in favor of Jason Campbell at quarterback.

Portis had four of the best seasons to start a career in NFL history: 1,508 yards and 1,591 yards in two years with Denver, then 1,315 and 1,516 with the Redskins. Last year, he became the face of the franchise, with five consecutive 100-yard games in the winning streak that clinched the team's first playoff spot in six years. His weekly dress-up on Thursdays added some personality to the season, and this year more of the same was expected in terms of both wins and flamboyance.

Instead, he partially dislocated his left shoulder making the preseason tackle, then jammed the rotator cuff in the same shoulder when he tried to play in the regular season opener. All season long, he was protecting one injury or the other, even as he was trying to adjust to the new offense installed by assistant coach Al Saunders.

"If it would have happened in earlier years, I probably would have been frustrated and upset and wondering why and questioning this and questioning that," Portis said. "But I'm older, much wiser, much more mature. I understand the business of the game. I had four wonderful years as a running back with no injuries, nothing major, not missing many games, being on the field and playing at a level that most people don't play at, and it's only a matter of time before that catches up with any running back.

"Fortunately for me, it was minor things that can be repaired and won't linger into next season. This could have been a knee or something major. I could have broken my neck when they twisted my body around. I just look at the positive side of it."

Portis was so out of kilter this season that he only dressed up once, portraying a character he called "Dolomite Jenkins" before the New York Giants game in Week 5.

Gibbs was criticized for rushing Portis back into action after the initial shoulder injury. Portis said Wednesday he was "good enough to play."

"But at the same time, I think I protected the shoulder and tried to stay away from hitting it," Portis said. "I really never could jam or have any quick-twitch moves with it, and I just knew my limits."

Betts is getting ready for the first extended chance to start in his five-year career. He already has 366 yards -- just 5 away from his career high -- and is second on the team with 30 receptions.

Saunders said Wednesday that the offense will have to be tweaked "quite a bit" in the adjustment from Brunell to Campbell, and the same will be true with Betts, who has more power but lacks Portis' agile game-breaking moves.

"The qualities that Ladell has as a runner are different from Clinton's, so we'll play to his strengths knowing that he's going to be the guy," Saunders said. "The running game will take a different angle, and so will the passing game."

Also, T.J. Duckett, who has mostly languished on the sidelines since the Redskins acquired him in a preseason trade, will get his first significant playing time. Duckett said he's been a little frustrated and antsy, but he hasn't ruffled any feathers while waiting for his turn.

"I'm excited. I haven't played in a while," said Duckett, who has seven carries for 40 yards. "It's going to be fun to go out onto the field and play around a little bit."<