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Clinton Portis says he expects to start for Redskins, but he's unsure of role

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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 1, 2010; 12:21 AM

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis will remain in the starting lineup Sunday at Philadelphia, but his exact role is still unclear.

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Coaches kept Portis on the sidelines for much of the second half of last Sunday's loss at St. Louis. Though Portis will begin this weekend's game in the backfield, he'll likely have to share carries with Ryan Torain, who was recently activated from the practice squad.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Portis said coaches haven't told him his exact role against the Eagles. "You have to ask them that," Portis said. "I don't have the answers to everything. I come to work, I clock in like you do."

Later Thursday, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan confirmed that despite having only seven carries against the Rams, Portis is still the team's starting running back.

Much of the speculation on Portis's role with the team has surrounded one rush in last Sunday's game, Portis's biggest gain of the year. After rumbling for 27 yards on the first quarter run, Portis fell untouched as defenders approached him. He said he did so to protect the ball.

"If I had to have the chance to do it again, I would do the same thing with five people around me," Portis said. "Maybe I could've picked up four more yards. Four more yards I don't think are going to determine the outcome of that game."

Portis had just two more carries after that run, including only one in the final two quarters. Torain saw the bulk of the playing time in the second half.

Shanahan said an injury to Portis's wrist played a role in that decision, but Portis said Thursday that nothing had changed with the injury.

"I hurt my arm the first series of the Dallas Cowboys game," he said. "So you've seen me play the rest of the Dallas Cowboys game, you've seen me play against Houston and you've seen me start off the Rams game. So I really don't …" Portis's voice trailed off and he wouldn't clarify the nature of the injury or its impact on his ability to run the ball.

"For these hot topics that you're bringing up, Coach Shanahan is right upstairs," he said.

Asked if Portis's hand was related to his decreased playing time, Shanahan declined to discuss the matter Thursday. "I think I've addressed that enough," he said.

Shanahan said he talked with his running back about why he fell down, and it's apparently no longer an issue. "I addressed it with him and felt very comfortable with the explanation," Shanahan said, "and now we go on."

Portis said his workload this week in practice has been similar to last week's. Leading up to the Rams' game, Torain was still on the practice squad and began taking reps with the first-team offense. Torain had a team-high 46 yards on seven carries against the Rams in his first game since 2008 and only the third of his career.

"Me and Clinton are very similar," Torain said. "We both run hard. We both run downhill. Clinton's a very great pass-blocker, and I just want to complement him."

Because they're so similar, it's not clear how coaches might juggle the two. In the second half last week, Portis was used primarily on third downs and in passing situations. Coaches also are high on Keiland Williams, an undrafted rookie from Louisiana State who has been used in third-down situations. He has six catches but no carries this season.

Portis says he hasn't had a conversation about his role in the offense.

"I think we on the same page. Until they come notify me of something different, I think we on the same page."

Shanahan has praised Portis's effort all year. "He will always give you great effort. . . . He's one of the most competitive individuals I've ever been around," Shanahan said.

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