Portis Plays It Straight, but He Is Playing

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2006

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis conducted his weekly interview yesterday in the same spot where he held forth last season, at the bottom of the stairwell between the weight and training rooms at the team practice facility in Ashburn. But there were no costumes or antics on display yesterday by Portis, who used to turn his weekly Thursday news conference into something of a sideshow.

"I forgot I had to do this press conference," he said. "When I walked in, I saw everybody lined up, it kind of shocked me. Hopefully, we won't need the characters. Hopefully, you'll see the character in this team and we'll go out and establish win after win. But you never know."

Portis reiterated that he expects to make his first start of the season Sunday in Houston. Portis was inactive last week against Dallas after scoring a touchdown as a reserve in the Redskins' opener against Minnesota, when he rushed 10 times for 39 yards.

"I'm about 105 percent and climbing. I'm healthy and looking forward to Sunday," he said. "They can expect a full-throttle Portis. It's no setbacks or limited plays for me."

Portis said the soreness in his left shoulder was part of the natural progression that comes with returning to football. He will play with a harness to help stabilize the shoulder.

"Soreness is going to come," he said. "That was the first time I had taken a shot in four weeks. It was like coming back to camp after not running, not doing nothing. You come back to camp, and you're going to have some tweaks."

On Sunday, Portis was active even though he did not play: On Rock Cartwright's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter, Portis was the first player in the end zone to congratulate Cartwright.

"It was hard not being there, but you know your teammates can go out and get the job done," he said. "I knew since last Wednesday that I wasn't going to play in the [Dallas] game. So instead of pouting and having them feeling sorry for me, I tried to give them confidence that they could do it without me. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done."

Three's a Crowd

With Portis apparently back, playing time for the three running backs on the depth chart likely will be at a premium. Ladell Betts started two games in place of Portis, rushing for 62 yards on 19 carries. Betts likely will return to his backup role, and he did not lament the lack of rushing opportunities during the first two games.

"Right now, I just go about my job, and try to better myself," Betts said. "We didn't play the way we wanted to play. I've got work to do. Everyone's got work to do. With the few opportunities I had, I felt I ran hard, and that's all I can ask of myself."

Meanwhile, T.J. Duckett said he is uncertain of his role with Portis back in the mix, but Duckett said he was happy to be on the field for the first time as a Redskin on Sunday night. He rushed five times for 24 yards.

"The more opportunities you get, the more chances you have to prove yourself," Duckett said. "I'm learning a lot. I think I'm getting completely caught up. I'm getting there."

Duckett said he had no idea what his role would be with Portis returning. "I don't know. I just wait until game time to find out," he said.

No Regrets

Cornerback Kenny Wright said there would be no tearful return to Houston, the team that signed him as a free agent after the 2001 season. Wright played three years with the Texans, his best year coming in 2003, when he recorded three interceptions and a sack.

"I don't have any regrets for leaving. It was just time to see what else was out there for me," said Wright, who played for Jacksonville last season. "I still have friends there. I have the utmost respect for the organization." . . .

Defensive tackle Joe Salave'a did not practice for the second straight day with a left calf injury. "Knowing Joe, he'll try to practice," said Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine. "He's questionable but certainly improved. It'll be one of those game-time deals."

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