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Portis Takes Off Out of The Gate

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 27, 2005

Clinton Portis burst through a crevice on the left side for seven yards after receiving a handoff in Washington's first offensive play last night. The rush attempt matched Portis's previous total of carries this preseason: one.

But on the first drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers  and the rest of the way -- Portis easily made up for his sparse minutes to enter the game.

After Portis left the game for good in the second quarter, he had eight carries for 48 yards, averaging six yards.

On the sideline, Portis wore a burgundy cap backward with a white towel on his shoulder, only expending energy to cheer teammates.

"We know Clinton is a great back," said right tackle Jon Jansen, "and I think we've got a pretty good offensive line. So putting those things together, I think we can expect big things from him this year."

With only one exhibition game left (Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens), Coach Joe Gibbs intended to get Portis as many carries as possible.

Portis didn't show any rust despite going against Pittsburgh's stingy defense, ranked no. 1 in the NFL last season. Before last night, Pittsburgh had allowed only a total of 26 rushing yards in the first halves of their first two games.

But last night Portis showed burst and power to surpass that figure in Washington's first drive. He went 32 yards on only five carries.

"It was good" left tackle Chris Samuels said about Portis's carries. "Clinton is very talented back, and we look forward to him going out there and having big games every week."

On the second play of the drive, Portis went up the middle before being halted after only two yards. After receiver James Thrash converted a third-and-one pass, Washington went back to Portis from its 30-yard line. Portis jutted 14 yards through a gaping hole on the right side created by tackle Jon Jansen and guard Randy Thomas. To punctuate the play  his longest of the game -- Portis placed the ball on the ground before spinning it.

The Redskins went back to Portis for two more carries totaling nine yards. But on third-and-one from Pittsburgh's 47-yard line, the Redskins were called for illegal substitution. And the drive died on Ramsey's incomplete pass on third-and-six from Washington's 48-yard line.

The Redskins finished the game with 166 rushing yards on 41 attempts as Ladell Betts (nine carries for 41 yards) and rookie Nehemiah Broughton (12 carries for 46 yards) chipped in. "We're just looking to be physical," Jansen said, "and we were having some fun with that tonight."

Portis is unabashed about his disdain for practice. But this week, Portis concurred with Gibbs that it was necessary to get significant action in preparation for the season opener, Sept. 11 versus the Chicago Bears.

Portis still worked on his conditioning during Washington's scoring drive late in the second quarter. Portis sprinted down the sideline to greet players, leaped high after completions and waved his towel. Portis celebrated when H-back Chris Cooley's snagged a four-yard touchdown pass from Ramsey to even the score at 10.

But just before the play, fans were reminded of the balancing act Gibbs goes through in getting his top tailback minutes while trying to avoid an injury. On third-and-two from Pittsburgh's seven-yard line, Betts was tackled from behind and was forced to hobble off the field to seek treatment. Betts returned to finish with a strong game.

Portis sat out Washington's last game with a sore elbow but returned to practice last week. In Washington's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, his sole carry went for four yards.

Last year, Portis amassed 1,315 yards on a career-high 343 rushes; which is the fourth-most in franchise history.

Bowen Bruised in Start

Strong safety Matt Bowen made his first start of the season in place of Ryan Clark (knee). But his night ended early in the first quarter when he suffered bruised ribs that forced him to go to a local hospital for further examination.

"It looks like he's okay," Gibbs said.

After recovering from a serious right knee injury, suffered early last season, Bowen has been competing with Clark for his old starting job. But Bowen's start went awry after he was tried to tackle the 5-11, 255-pound Jerome Bettis on Pittsburgh's second drive. Bowen missed the tackle and got the worst end of the contact when he was forced out the game with the chest injury. Bowen subsequently went into the locker room for X-rays.

Noble Returns to Lineup

Nose tackle Brandon Noble's return was overshadowed by linebacker LaVar Arrington. But after entering in the second quarter for Joe Salave'a, Noble also played for the first time since last December. Noble missed the first two preseason games with a staph infection that developed after arthroscopic surgery in April. "It felt good but I was rusty," Noble said. "I don't think I'm where I need to be to play like I did late last year.".Punter Tom Tupa didn't play because of a back ailment suffered in last week's game. Tupa was replaced by Andy Groom, who last night averaged 39.3 yards with a long of 52. Gibbs said that Tupa  who missed practice last week -- saw a doctor yesterday. Tupa hasn't missesd a regular-season game since 1993. "It's always a concern when it's the back," Gibbs said. Cornerback Ade Jimoh left the game in the fourth quarter with a stinger.Cornerback Walt Harris (calf), tight end Robert Royal (shoulder), receiver Taylor Jacobs (toe) and offensive lineman Mark Wilson (back) didn't play.

Bowen Bruised in Start

Strong safety Matt Bowen made his first preseason start in place of Ryan Clark (knee). But his night ended early in the first quarter when he suffered bruised ribs that forced him to go to a local hospital for further examination.

After recovering from a serious right knee injury (torn anterior cruciate), Bowen has been competing with Clark for his old starting job.

But Bowen's start went awry after he tried to tackle Jerome Bettis on Pittsburgh's second drive. Bowen missed the tackle and got the wrong end of the contact.

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