» This Story:Read +| Comments

Betts to get a chance when it counts

Redskins turn to ballcarrier who practices with first team during the week

Ladell Betts had 11 total carries in the Redskins' first seven games, and then rushed 15 times on Sunday in Atlanta.
Ladell Betts had 11 total carries in the Redskins' first seven games, and then rushed 15 times on Sunday in Atlanta. (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
By Rick Maese
Friday, November 13, 2009

Though Washington Redskins running back Ladell Betts is expected to start his first game of the season this weekend, coaches aren't concerned with how he'll mesh with the rest of the first-team unit. Even though Clinton Portis starts on Sundays, Betts is the one who often spends much of the week preceding games playing with the starters.

This Story
View All Items in This Story
View Only Top Items in This Story

In fact, offensive coordinator Sherman Smith says there might not be a backup running back in the NFL who practices with the first-team more than Betts does.

"You always wonder how it'll be when you have a guy out there who's practiced, getting in a rhythm with the offensive line. You wonder what would happen," Smith said. "And he didn't disappoint last Sunday."

Betts replaced Portis last Sunday in Atlanta when Portis suffered a concussion in the first quarter. Still recovering, Portis will not play this weekend against the Denver Broncos, Coach Jim Zorn said.

Even before the concussion -- the second Portis has suffered as a player -- Portis has missed practices this season because of nagging injuries. In addition, for years he has believed that he plays better on Sundays when he rests his body during the week. That has often meant Betts, Portis's backup since 2004, has been given more repetitions with the first team in the days leading up to games.

"It helps," Smith said of that practice time. "That's what I was trying to tell Clinton, even when he didn't practice: The practice isn't just for him but for the offensive linemen. They need him out there. They need a feel for what he's doing. And the line has a feel for Ladell since he's been practicing most of the time."

Oddly, as he prepares for his first regular season start since 2006, Betts has been nursing an ankle sprain and has been unable to practice this week. Coaches still expect him to be ready to start on Sunday.

"Fortunately, once the low-ankle sprains start healing up they don't re-aggravate," Zorn said. "You've got to really do something again to re-injure it. It's not like a high-ankle sprain. I think he'll be ready."

Tabbed before the season as the Redskins' third-down back, Betts didn't have many opportunities before Portis went down in Atlanta. He had only one or two carries in every game this season except for St. Louis (four) and Philadelphia (none).

But with Portis out, he had 70 yards on 15 carries in Atlanta last Sunday. His average of 4.7 yards per carry against the Falcons was higher than any Portis has posted this season, except for the Kansas City game when Portis had a 78-yard run and averaged 7.3 yards per run.

After the Falcons' game, Betts said he felt comfortable because he was finally able to establish a rhythm in the backfield.

"I felt he was getting in a groove," Smith said Thursday after practice. "It's different when you're the guy and you're getting those consistent carries, versus you get a carry every so often. Every runner wants to get a rhythm. They all do. That's why they hate to come out. And you hate to take them out when they are in a rhythm."

CONTINUED     1        >

» This Story:Read +| Comments

More in the Redskins Section

Redskins Insider

Redskins Insider

News updates, poll questions and exlusive analysis of the Redskins.

Tailgate Zone

Tailgate Zone

A discussion group that invites fans to debate all matters burgundy and gold.

Redskins Podcast

Insider Podcast

Post reporters and editors discuss and dissect the team's ups and downs.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company