By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
After injuring his left knee in the Washington Redskins' second preseason game on Aug. 18, quarterback Jason Campbell is set to start tomorrow night in the team's preseason finale at Jacksonville. Meanwhile, tailback Clinton Portis, who has missed nearly all of training camp with tendinitis in his right knee, returned for yesterday's practice and also could play, Coach Joe Gibbs said.
Left tackle Chris Samuels (knee sprain) still is not practicing fully and will not play, while left guard Pete Kendall, acquired from the New York Jets last week, practiced with the Redskins for the first time and will play with the starters tomorrow, Gibbs said. Cornerback Shawn Springs (Achilles' tendon) expects to be back for the game, while linebacker Marcus Washington (dislocated elbow) returned to practice but will not play in Jacksonville.
One veteran the Redskins will be without is defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, a former starter and one of the team's more popular players who was released yesterday as the team reached the NFL-mandated roster limit of 75.
Campbell had been adamant about playing after working out with athletic trainers Monday, and he was back as the starter at yesterday's practice, the only one of the week. Gibbs said Monday that Campbell would have to be "100 percent" healthy before being allowed to appear against the Jaguars, and after yesterday's practice he remarked that Campbell "looks fine to me."
Campbell said he hopes to get into a "quick rhythm" against the Jaguars and does not expect to play too long, but realizes how important the preseason is for him and wants to get in more playing time before the Sept. 9 regular season opener. Campbell said he was "tense" at first in some blitz drills yesterday, leery after taking a direct blow to his blind side, but then got comfortable with his knee and relaxed. He said his conditioning was a bigger hurdle than the knee itself and he took some snaps off.
"They don't want to do too much with it, and they don't want the swelling to come back and have a setback," Campbell said. "So I'll just take my time on it, and work my way back in slowly."
Portis practiced for the first time all month. He experienced pain in his knee in May but was cleared to return to contact drills at the opening of training camp in July, then aggravated the injury July 30. The team believes the prolonged layoff will keep the tendinitis from recurring in the regular season, but Portis will have only three full practices next week before the season opener.
Gibbs said that Portis ideally would be able to get four or five carries tomorrow but admitted that "sometimes that gets taken away from you." If Portis's knee responds well to yesterday's workload, he could appear in the game. Given his druthers, Portis said he would not take part in preseason games, but he participated in almost every drill yesterday and conceded that it will take time to get his legs back.
"Hopefully I showed them enough in practice where I ain't got to play on Thursday," Portis said. "But if he asks me to play and if I got to play, then okay."
The Redskins have declared Portis the starting tailback since camp began, but many believe it would be difficult for any running back to miss so much time yet be able to instantly take on the workload required of a No. 1 tailback. Ladell Betts exceeded expectations when he replaced Portis in the second half of the 2006 season and showed his ability to carry the load, and that could well be the case early in the regular season.
Samuels, who suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his right medial collateral ligament on July 30, initially had hoped to play tomorrow but, given all his time off, that was not feasible. He did not take part in any team drills yesterday but did have pads on. Kendall will face the Jaguars, although he dubbed his practice yesterday "less than perfect." He is banking on the Redskins using mostly rudimentary running plays as he feels his way through the playbook and adjusts to his teammates.
"If they ask me to go and play with the understanding that I'm still not ready for the graduate level, I think we'll be okay," Kendall said.
On the defensive side of the ball, much of the talk was not about new arrivals but about who was gone. Salave'a, 32, had become an emotional leader of the unit, one of several unheralded players who propelled the group to a surprise No. 3 league ranking in 2004. Injuries have ravaged him the past few years, and there was a feeling this offseason that he might be nearing the end of his career. Salave'a responded with a solid camp, but the coaches are trying to establish more youth on the line, and with Kedric Golston, Anthony Montgomery, Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson and Alex Buzbee making good showings, they opted to release the veteran to help improve his chances of catching on with another team.
Gibbs said he has coached "no greater person" than Salave'a, and Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, drafted Salave'a when he was with the Tennessee Titans in 1998. "I'm kind of like his stepfather," Williams said, adding that Salave'a was close to Williams's children. Last week, linebacker Lemar Marshall, another player synonymous with that 2004 defense, was released and quickly signed with Cincinnati, and the Redskins anticipate that Salave'a will sign with another team as well.
"That's a tough one. That's a real tough one," defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said. "I'm going to miss Joe. I am sure he's going to get picked up by somebody and I wish him the best. We'll still keep in touch, and when he's in town we'll still go out to dinner and have fun. We've been together for four years, and it hurts, but that's the business as well."
Redskins Notes: Washington wore a brace on his elbow and continues to hope he can play in the regular season opener. . . . In addition to Salave'a, the Redskins parted ways with three other players. Offensive lineman Ross Tucker, who has a neck injury, and wide receiver Jason McAddley (hamstring) were placed on injured reserve, and both could agree to injury settlements. Fullback Pete Schmitt (shoulder), who showed promise in camp, was waived. . . . All teams must reach the 53-man regular season roster limit by Saturday.