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Portis, Starters Expect to Play In First Half Against Carolina

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Although Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis is not a fan of the preseason, he said he has some interest in playing Saturday against the Carolina Panthers. Redskins starters are expected to play most of the first half at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte as Coach Jim Zorn stages a dress rehearsal for the regular season, and Portis wants to measure himself against the Panthers' aggressive defense.

"They blitz every other play and look like they really game-plan for the teams they playing, [so] you can't help but realize the season's right around the corner," Portis said before practice yesterday at Redskins Park. The Panthers will "come with a lot, [and] it's going to be a physical game."

The Redskins' top back has not been hit much in the preseason. After sitting out Washington's 30-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3, Portis played a couple of series with the first-team offense in a 17-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 9. Portis also got the night off on Aug. 16 as Washington defeated the New York Jets, 13-10.

Thanks to Zorn, Portis should be well rested when the Redskins kick off the regular season Sept. 4 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. But the offensive and defensive starters need an extended session together before they begin the season, Zorn said, and Portis is a big part of Zorn's West Coast offense.

"It's kind of exciting," Portis said of Zorn's plan to evaluate the team's starters against Carolina. "I kind of want to play, and I don't want to play. Being that I have to play, and it's not my choice, I can't do nothing but be excited about it.

"Once you get on the field and you got your mind-set that you've got to plan on playing then, of course, it's exciting. You love to see the guys running around, and you love to be a part of it."

In his only preseason appearance, Portis had 18 yards on seven rushes and scored on a one-yard run. He also had one reception for five yards and blocked well in pass protection for quarterback Jason Campbell. Portis, who takes pride in his blocking, will be especially focused on his blitz assignments this week.

"You never know what play [is] going to be the play" that wins a game, Portis said. "We won a lot of games, and lost a lot of games, by seven points or less. You never know what play [is] going to change the outcome of the game. I try to go out and [block] as if that's the play."

Portis, whom Redskins officials have praised for his commitment to the team's offseason workout program, received a $9.3 million signing bonus in March and was guaranteed at least $15.7 million through 2010 as part of his restructured contract that helped the Redskins get under the NFL salary cap.

With two preseason games remaining, Portis's main goal is to be physically sound for the season opener, but "I can't be worried about getting hurt," he said. "If I get hurt, I get hurt. I got to go out and play football."

Landry Better but Will Sit

Free safety LaRon Landry, who has not played in the preseason because of a hamstring injury, has been ruled out of Saturday's game.

"Each and every day it's getting better," said Landry, who sat out practice again. "At this point, I'm just pressing on [and] just looking forward to the opener."

Early in training camp, Landry estimated he would need to play the equivalent of at least four full quarters to be prepared to play in the opener. The Redskins end the preseason Aug. 28 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedEx Field.

As far as "getting a preseason game in, I really want to, but it depends on the leg," Landry said. "Each and every day, I'm progressing, but who knows when it's going to be 100 percent."

Rookie Kelly Could Debut

The Redskins continued to increase the workload of rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly, who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery.

Kelly worked with the second team, ran some routes in 11-on-11 drills and could make his pro debut this week "if he can continue to improve" in practice today and go full speed in pregame warmups Saturday, Zorn said. "I don't have to see him on the field this week. If he feels good we certainly can [use] him." . . .

Tackle Stephon Heyer (knee) is coming "right along, and I expect him to participate this weekend," Zorn said. . . . The medical staff is expected to evaluate strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington (hip) today. . . . Wide receiver Anthony Mix (ribs) practiced but was slowed while wearing a bulky rib protector. . . . Linebacker Matt Sinclair (back spasms) sat out practice.

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