By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Tailback Ladell Betts signed a lucrative five-year contract extension to remain a Washington Redskin yesterday rather than opt for free agency, and the man he replaced, feature back Clinton Portis, stopped by Redskins Park for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery to congratulate him.
Portis and Betts, who have formed a strong partnership in their three years in Washington's backfield, said they were excited about remaining a tandem even as it appears Betts is headed for a more prominent role in the team's offense.
Betts, a 2002 second-round pick, has thrived with Portis missing much of this season with shoulder and hand injuries, setting career bests with 141 carries for 643 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, to go with 40 receptions (second on the team). He is coming off consecutive 100-yard games, including a personal-best 155 yards in Sunday's loss to Atlanta.
Portis underwent repairs to his torn left labrum Tuesday and likely will miss all of the team's spring training sessions as he rehabilitates his shoulder. Portis, who set the franchise rushing record in 2005, also had hand surgery recently. He started just seven games this season, with 127 carries for 523 yards and seven touchdowns.
Given his expanded duties and rising comfort level with the team, Betts, 27, opted to take Washington's five-year contract extension offer. Sources said it included a $3.5 million signing bonus and $5.5 million in guaranteed money, $100,000 workout bonuses and could be worth up to $11 million in total. It was a sizeable commitment to someone who has been a role player before this season, and an apparent indication that Betts will continue to play a major role in the offense.
"As the year played along I think it became more evident that we did need two tailbacks, and most teams in the league are going to two tailbacks," Betts said. "Most teams have more than one tailback to help carry the load, so as the season went along I think it became more and more evident and talks grew more and more as the season went on.
"From my understanding from my conversations with the coach and everybody else within the organization, my role will be a large role going here forward. It won't be carrying the full load, but I'll have to carry the ball and play my part in this offense and that's something I've had no problem doing over the last couple of years. And I believe the Redskins stepped to the plate and gave me an offer I felt comfortable with."
Portis, 25, has played sparingly since associate head coach Al Saunders came to Washington from Kansas City last January. Portis partially dislocated his shoulder on the first series of the preseason, and barely practiced all season or made it through a full game without getting injured. He was knocked out for good after he broke his hand in Week 10.
Portis said he hopes to conduct as much of his rehabilitation as possible near his home in South Beach and is spending time in Miami already, returning for games when possible, he said. "I can't let no cold get into my shoulder, and around here they got some cold air," he said between chuckles.
"It's a great compliment for Ladell to go out and get what he deserves," Portis said. "With the success he's been having and his capabilities, the sky is the limit. I always believed he had a lot of potential and for him to go out and get a contract extension, it's great. I'm getting old. I'm getting old. So it don't matter to me. I'm going to have fun no matter how many carries I get, and I'm sure he's going to do the same, whether it's 3-1, or 2-2, or whatever [the ratio] is. I'm going to just make the most out of mine. I've done shared the load before. Now, if it's back to sharing the load again, oh well."
Betts has long been a favorite of the coaches, accepting roles returning kicks and punts, working with the coverage units on special teams and stepping in whenever Portis needed a breather.
"Ladell, since I've been here, everything we've asked him to do he's done," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "He's been the person, a protector on punts, he's run back kickoffs. He and Clinton have been an excellent tandem back there. We feel like he's a Redskin. He's our kind of guy. He knows how important he is to us."
Portis watched yesterday's practice, wanting to show some solidarity with his teammates by wearing only a T-shirt and light jacket on a frigid, windy day. He will wear a sling on his left shoulder through the end of January, and faces a five-month recovery after that, likely putting him out of minicamp next spring.
"I'll have plenty of opportunities to run and do my rehab and get prepared and learn the playbook or whatever tweaks we have going on," Portis said. "I'll have plenty of opportunities to do that."
Redskins Notes: Rookie linebacker Rocky McIntosh, a second-round pick who the Redskins traded up to select in April, said he had no increased role in practice this week and expects to play solely on special teams again Sunday. McIntosh said he has been given no specific reason for his lack of playing time. "There's been no real conversation about it, you just have to earn it around here," he said. Coaches have said McIntosh continues to learn the system. . . .
There have been no discussion between the Redskins and potential free agent tailback T.J. Duckett and Betts's extension likely signals an end to Duckett's brief tenure in Washington according to a source close to the player. . . . Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was not fined by the NFL for his helmet-tossing incident Sunday according to league sources. . . .
. . . Tackle Jon Jansen (right calf) practiced for the first time this week and said he is ready to play Sunday. Tight end Todd Yoder (thigh) also returned to practice. Khary Campbell, Kenny Wright, Casey Rabach, Troy Vincent and Phillip Daniels are probable, too, and expected to play. . . . Gibbs said the team has been in talks with its other remaining prominent potential free agent, starting guard Derrick Dockery, but was unsure if a deal would be completed before free agency. "You never know what course it's going to take," Gibbs said. . . . Gibbs reiterated yesterday's remarks made to The Washington Post that he would consider adding a general manager in the offseason, saying he did not necessarily have any intent to do so but "if that was something [owner] Dan [Snyder] and everybody in here talked over and wanted to do and thought that would help the Redskins, then we would do it."