By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 14, 2006
CINCINNATI, Aug. 13 -- Had running back Clinton Portis not bothered to sprint 50 yards to disrupt an interception return in the preseason opener tonight, no one would have questioned his judgment. Yet there he was, racing down the sideline with regular season abandon, hitting Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, then lying on his back for several minutes with a partial dislocation of his left shoulder.
Portis, a willing and tenacious hitter despite being much smaller than many opponents, left this 19-3 defeat to Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium in considerable pain after the Redskins' second possession, and will begin rehabilitation this week pending further results from an MRI exam. He is expected to miss at least the remainder of the preseason and, standing on the sideline, vented to television cameras about being left in the game too long. He said he believes the problem could linger well into the regular season as opposing defenses target his "nicked" shoulder.
"After that eight-yard run [in the first series]," Portis said, with his left shoulder in a sling, "I was like, 'Get me out of the game.' But that's football, man. . . . You can't fault nobody. I was hustling after the ball trying to keep them out of the end zone."
When asked directly whether he thought he was left in the game too long, Portis said, "I'm going to leave that as a trick question."
A partial dislocation, known as a subluxation, causes the ball in the shoulder joint to slip out, resulting in pain and weakness. Recovery time can vary, and rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat the injury; surgery also is an option should the pain persist. Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine, said an accurate timetable will be impossible to determine for several days, depending on the extent of inflammation, and Portis said the injury felt like a right shoulder injury he suffered in high school, pointing to the scar from that surgery, although this time his shoulder slipped back into place.
"I'll sit there until the pain goes away and start rehabbing, and see how it goes," said Portis, who set a franchise record with 1,516 rushing yards last season and is a critical part of associate head coach Al Saunders's new offense.
This was an anxiety-filled night for Coach Joe Gibbs. The first two quarterbacks to play -- starter Mark Brunell (30.1 passer rating) and backup Todd Collins (30.3) -- struggled and were intercepted in limited action, while reserve linebacker Chris Clemons will be on crutches at least two weeks with a "significant" knee sprain, Tyer said, and running back Kerry Carter (out for the year with multiple knee ligament tears) had to be carted off before halftime as well. Gibbs left the offensive starters in for just 13 plays, but even that was too long to avoid the inevitable preseason injuries.
"We just wanted to have one good drive," Gibbs said. "I didn't want [Portis] to carry it more than a couple of times. . . . It's probably on me if there's going to be anyone second-guessed on it."
Saunders has relied on a powerful running game as the cornerstone of his offense, and veteran role player Rock Cartwright replaced Portis on Sunday. Ladell Betts, Portis's primary backup the last two seasons, has been nursing a hamstring problem, and did not feel ready to test it, Gibbs said. The Redskins had been impressed with newcomers Carter and Jesse Lumsden, but Lumsden was out with a hip flexor and Carter faces major surgery Monday.
The first half was an abomination for the Redskins, apart from the typical punishing performance from the first-team defense. Brunell (4 of 9 for 66 yards) was rusty, lobbing a weak, errant sideline pass that was easily intercepted by Ratliff on the first drive, which led to Portis's tackle and injury. "He plays extremely tough," Gibbs said of Portis's effort. "It didn't surprise me."
Collins, who has not started an NFL game since 1997 but was signed this offseason because of his knowledge of Saunders's offense, fared no better, completing 6 of 13 passes for 68 yards.
Second-year quarterback Jason Campbell was 9 of 15 for 99 yards in the second half, then ended his outing with an interception.
Collins tried to send his first attempt to the ground under pressure, but instead put it directly into the arms of defensive tackle John Thornton. On his second drive, Collins surrendered a safety on intentional grounding from the end zone, another pass that could have easily been intercepted. His third drive produced another eyesore: on third and one, Collins fumbled the snap, tripped to the ground and lost two yards.
"I don't think any one of us looked particularly good," Gibbs said.
The second-team defense looked just as nervous in the half. As soon as the backups hit the field, the Bengals called a flea-flicker -- an alert antidote to Washington's blitzing -- and rookie safety Reed Doughty was nowhere near receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who easily hauled down the 52-yard reception.
Clemons, who contributed a solid pass rush on third-down situations last season, sprained his left medial collateral ligament on the next play, limping off with a brace strapped to his knee. The Bengals scored the first touchdown -- a 12-yard pass on the ensuing play -- and took a 12-0 lead on their next drive, early in the second quarter.
"It was a disappointing set of circumstances," Gibbs said. "For us, it's really hard to find a positive."