Portis Will Miss Rest of Preseason
Running Back Is Uncertain for Opener

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who partially dislocated his left shoulder making a tackle in a preseason loss Sunday in Cincinnati, will miss the remainder of the preseason, and Coach Joe Gibbs said he was uncertain if Portis would be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field.

Portis arrived at Redskins Park in mid-morning yesterday, wearing a sling, and groggy from a sleepless night because, he said, of the discomfort. By noontime, he was on a plane with Director of Sports Medicine Bubba Tyer, bound for Birmingham and an appointment with James Andrews, a noted sports injury surgeon who is the Redskins' senior orthopedic consultant.

"I think the feeling from Dr. Andrews and everyone here that has looked at him is that it will be something that will be sore. As soon as we get the soreness out of there, we feel he can start rehabbing," Gibbs said. "We would hope he will be ready for the opener. It will be up to Clinton and everyone working with him, but that's generally what Dr. Andrews and the doctors here concur after seeing everything.

"Portis said during and after the game that he didn't believe he should have been on the field in the first place -- he was hurt on the eighth play -- stoking a debate on the risks of full-contact preseason games.

"There's no need to be angry. Anger's not going to bring it back," Portis said. "I still stand on I don't know why myself or any other player of my caliber would be playing in the preseason. I don't know what's the question. I think over the last four years, I've done enough to show the world I'm going to be ready for the season."

The injury to Portis, who rushed for a franchise record 1,516 yards last season, left Gibbs defending the Redskins' approach to training camp and the exhibition season. On the flight from Cincinnati, Gibbs and Portis talked about their positions, though Gibbs declined to provide details. After the game, Gibbs said he took responsibility for having Portis on the field.

"With preseason, we came to camp late. We've had no real contact in our camps," Gibbs said. "You'd like them to get started with some contact and get them in some type of groove. You always run a risk."

Portis was injured with 4 minutes 25 seconds left in the first quarter as he tackled Cincinnati cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, who had intercepted Mark Brunell and run 52 yards. At the Redskins 30, Portis launched himself awkwardly into Ratliff. Portis felt a jolt in his left shoulder upon impact and lay on the turf for several moments before walking off the field under his own power.

The technical term for his injury is a subluxation and, according to medical experts, it is considered a less severe injury than a dislocation. With a subluxation, the humerus bone slides back into the joint on its own and with rest and a reduction of swelling, the shoulder can remain intact. However, with a dislocation, the shoulder is out of its socket, and must be physically reset.

A key, experts said, is the health of the rotator cuff and the labrum, two key parts of the shoulder. If there is damage to the rotator cuff, the shoulder is more likely to slide easily out of the joint. A healthy rotator cuff will provide enough support to keep the shoulder from popping out.

"The shoulder is a funny thing," said Jose Yasul, sports medicine supervisor at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, Calif. "You have to look at it like placing a softball on a plate. The ball represents the top of the humerus. The plate is the shoulder socket. When the ball stays in or around the center of the plate, you have normal motion. When it rolls to the edge of the plate, that's a subluxation. When it rolls completely off the plate, that's a dislocation."

In either case, Portis's shoulder is loose, and susceptible. Gibbs said the Redskins have not opted for surgery because they believe rest can reduce the inflammation and allow a faster return.

"We have a great medical staff with a lot of resources," Gibbs said. "We sent guys wherever they need to go, and the first thing I tell people, and I told Clinton, 'the most important thing for you is what's best for you.' "

Portis's injury, while potentially devastating, was heightened by an injury to his backup, Ladell Betts. Betts, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, made the trip to Cincinnati but took himself out of the lineup the day before the game.

"He just didn't feel good. He just didn't feel comfortable," Gibbs said Sunday night. "I talked to him [Saturday] and he said, 'Hey, I haven't really tested it.' So when someone tells you something like that, I kind of felt like the best thing to do was to keep him out."

Over the first two weeks of camp, Betts has been an intermittent but promising participant in practice, and suddenly the running back position has become a trouble spot. In addition to Portis and Betts, running back Jesse Lumsden, whom the Redskins have liked in camp, did not make the trip to Cincinnati with a hip flexor.

Although Betts is slowed by hamstring trouble, he also has a strong supporter in associate head coach Al Saunders, who believes Betts can be a surprise impact player. In four seasons, Betts has appeared in 48 of 64 games. He played in all 16 once, in 2004.

"This is why you have to have depth," said Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs, his own groin injury part of the reason the Redskins traded last night for cornerback Mike Rumph. "It's why you have Ladell and Rock [Cartwright]. You don't want to ever see this kind of stuff happen, especially in a preseason game."

Special correspondent Rich Campbell contributed to this report.

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