By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 5, 2007
Redskins running back Clinton Portis proclaimed himself healthy enough to play after yesterday's practice, but wide receiver Santana Moss missed practice again because of a groin injury and remains uncertain whether he will be able to play in Washington's game Sunday against Detroit.
Portis, whose 2006 season and preseason last summer were marked by injuries, laughed off the latest round of inquiries about his health. Moss, who has battled lingering injuries before, is trying to prevent this latest setback from becoming a long-term ailment.
"If I'm out there on Wednesday and Thursday, they ain't got no choice but to let me out there on Sunday," said Portis, who missed practice Monday but said his bruised and sprained right knee felt fine after a full workload yesterday. "It was limited [Wednesday], but today I ran full speed on numerous plays -- run plays and pass plays -- and it felt good."
The Redskins were without wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who missed practice with a bruised shin after being kicked in Wednesday's practice, although he has been a non-factor in the offense. The coaching staff told wide receiver James Thrash to prepare to start in Moss's place, and recently signed wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell are ready for their first action with the Redskins.
Fullback Mike Sellers was limited in practice because of a heel problem, but he is set to play Sunday, while defensive backs Fred Smoot (hamstring) and Sean Taylor (knee) practiced.
Washington will need as many playmakers as possible to keep pace with the Lions, who have the NFL's fourth-rated offense and top-rated pass offense. Detroit is averaging 28.5 points per game -- fourth best in the league -- and has an array of talented wide receivers, running backs and perhaps the most dangerous offensive system in football under coordinator Mike Martz.
Portis and Moss are integral to the Redskins' attack -- the keys to the running game and deep-passing attack -- but this week Moss has been able to run only straight ahead. He was able to accelerate a bit more yesterday but still was unable to take part in drills.
Moss said he plans to run harder and try to cut and move laterally today, but is taking a measured approach to an injury that is easily aggravated. He is not scheduled to practice fully today -- the last session of the week -- which generally does not bode well for a player's availability on game day.
"Dealing with something like this in the past, you just want to be 100 percent sure about it before you do it," Moss said. "Until then, we'll be waiting. I didn't put no pads on. I didn't have my cleats on today. I didn't run no routes. Until I do pretty much all that stuff, then I can tell you more."
Coach Joe Gibbs said that he would consider allowing Moss to play even with a very limited practice week should he feel up to it, but that the final decision will belong to Moss.
Some team personnel were surprised that Lloyd was unable to practice yesterday, and his lengthy absence this preseason because of shin splints raised eyebrows as well. Lloyd's brief tenure in Washington has been marred by clashes with coaches and ineffectiveness, and after barely seeing the field this season, many already consider his departure at season's end a foregone conclusion. With former starters McCardell and Caldwell signed in recent weeks, Lloyd's role seems likely to shrink further, and Thrash is preparing for expanded duty Sunday.
Thrash generally participates in three- and four-receiver sets -- not the base formations -- and is a special teams stalwart, but is praised by coaches for his ability to master varied positions (the "X," "Y" and "Z" receiving positions, as well as H-back, tight end and even fullback). He has sure hands and is an expert route runner and, though not explosive at age 32, has shown a knack for getting open. Early in the week, coaches told Thrash to be ready to man the "Z" spot, which requires the ability to handle diverse responsibilities with lots of pre-snap motion.
"If I had to pick one, I'm more confident probably with 'Z,' " Thrash said. "But I try to make sure whenever I'm called to go out and make sure I know them all."