Portis Looks Better For Season Opener
Backup Role Is Likely vs. Vikings

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 10, 2006

A day after suggesting that he not only expected to miss tomorrow's season opener against Minnesota but wasn't even positive that he would be available for next Sunday's game at Dallas, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis said yesterday he was "93.9 percent" healthy and hoped to play against the Vikings.

Further closing the gap between what had been his weeklong pessimism about being healthy enough to face the Vikings and the more optimistic view of the Redskins' coaches that Portis had been steadily improving, Portis was upgraded to probable on the injury report, and for the first time Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that Portis would be available tomorrow night as a backup to starter Ladell Betts.

"I think we've tried to accurately state exactly where he is," Gibbs said. "I think right now if I had to say I think Ladell will start and Clinton will play a backup role. I think that's the way it will go and that's what we've tried to accurately portray during the week."

The move represented a remarkable turnaround for Portis and underscored something of a disconnect between Portis's comments and those of the team over the past few days, where Portis and Gibbs characterized Portis's situation quite differently.

Portis has practiced the past few days but hasn't played since suffering a partial separation of his left shoulder on Aug. 13 during the first series of the Redskins' first preseason game. On Friday, Portis ruled himself out for the Minnesota game.

"The way things look, bro, we'll aim to probably see 2-6 against Dallas," said Portis, referring to himself by his jersey number, 26. "Who knows? Hopefully, I can come back against Dallas, but if not, I should be ready for Houston."

But yesterday, Portis was upbeat, funny, relaxed, speaking about himself in odd, incremental percentages. On Thursday, Portis said he was at 75 percent healthy. Friday he joked that he was up to 83 percent. Yesterday was 93.9. "We've got two more days to get a six percent increase. Right now, I'll get some good rest, and hopefully get up to 98 or 99 percent and be a game-time decision," he said, adding that he was aided by the game being played on Monday. "It helped me out a lot. To shoot for Sunday, being at 98.5, missing that 1.5 percent could have hurt me."

Portis's levity stood in stark contrast to the grim, smoldering Gibbs, who has stated multiple times over the last 10 days that tomorrow's game is one of "the most important" that he's "ever been a part of" and is acutely aware that Portis's status was a topic of high interest.

"I've tried to accurately portray during the week exactly where it would be," Gibbs said. "I think he's practiced this week and we tried to tell everyone what we thought it would be."

Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine, said Friday that when Portis plays he would wear a shoulder harness that would keep his shoulder stabilized. "We haven't had a lot of physical contact since I've been trying to go, basically being in the right place, doing the right things, and getting your timing down, just in case," Portis said yesterday.

By the end of the afternoon, Portis walked to his car and said, "After my shower, I now feel like I'm at 96.1 percent."

Redskins Note: Defensive end Renaldo Wynn (sprained ankle) was downgraded to doubtful for tomorrow's game.

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