Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis did not participate in yesterday's practice because of soreness in his groin, but the injury is not considered serious, and the player said he expects to return to the field today. Portis has shown explosiveness throughout the first week of training camp, and his health and production are expected to be vital to the team's success this season.

"Everything is alright; you'll see me tomorrow," Portis said after yesterday's practice, which lasted more than two hours. "I think everybody is sore just from getting back into the swing of things. That's the only problem; there ain't nothing else wrong, It's just soreness. I ain't got no injuries, ain't nothing wrong."

Coach Joe Gibbs said Portis is one of three players to suffer minor groin ailments in recent days, something that is common early in camp.

"We're just trying to be careful," Gibbs said.

Defense Has Upper Hand

The offense still has yet to look in sync, although that is not entirely a surprise in the first week of camp. The players are still learning Gibbs's system, and the quarterback and receivers in particular must develop chemistry. Few deep balls have gone for completions during full-team drills, and the defense has been getting the better of the offense with great regularity.

"We're trying to work real hard on timing things," Gibbs said, "and we're trying to get sharp. I think the other thing is your defense, when they see stuff over and over and over again, when they do that if they're a good defense -- which hopefully ours is, which I think is showing up out there -- they play it better and better and better, and you're running pretty much the same routes, and I think they play it better."

Gibbs has continued to characterize the offense's performance as "rough" and is excited to see how the players look Monday night against Denver in the preseason opener. . . .

Rookie safety Sean Taylor had his best day of training camp, breaking up two passes during one-on-one drills and sprinting across the field to level wide receiver Sean Dillard on an end-around during the 11-on-11 drill.

Taylor has been a central figure in this training camp, with his firing of agents, changing his number and refusal to speak to the media all generating significant attention.

Cornerback Fred Smoot, one of several players counseling the first-round pick, believes Taylor might soon come out of his shell. "The ice will be broken soon," Smoot said. "He's going to break the silence sooner or later."