Already sidelined by the broken right hand that he sustained on Sunday afternoon, Washington Redskins star tailback Clinton Portis will undergo surgery on his left shoulder, ESPN.com has learned, and will finish the least productive season of his career in the least palatable manner, on injured reserve.
The Redskins officially placed Portis on injured reserve Wednesday mornng, after three league sources had confirmed on Tuesday night that the season-ending move was imminent. Portis will be replaced in the starting lineup by five-year veteran Ladell Betts, one of the NFL's top No. 2 tailbacks.
"It was a rough year," Portis told The Associated Press. "It wasn't meant for us.
It wasn't meant for me. Over the years, it's been lovely for me,
and now I'm finally running into a bump in my road."
Portis injured his right hand in the first quarter of Sunday's 27-3 loss at Philadelphia, when he stiff-armed Eagles' free safety Brian Dawkins near the sideline. On Monday, the five-year veteran underwent surgery to repair a fracture to the fourth metacarpal. Three surgical screws were inserted to promote stability and hasten the healing process, and Portis will probably be in a sling for about a week.
Team officials initially suggested Portis would miss 3-to-4 weeks, but might return for the last few games of the season. But after further consideration, the Redskins decided that bringing Portis back late in the year was perhaps too risky. Given the decision that he wouldn't play again in 2006, Portis and team officials then decided it was best to have his left shoulder repaired as well.
The rationale: By having the shoulder surgery now, instead of waiting until the end of the season, Portis would have more time to rehabilitate, and should be ready for the offseason program in the spring.
Portis, 25, suffered a partial dislocation of the left shoulder in the opening preseason game at Cincinnati on Aug. 13. He sat out the final three preseason games and did not start in the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Portis did appear in that game, but was clearly affected by the shoulder, and managed just 39 yards on 10 carries coming off the bench. He then sat out the second game of the season entirely because of the shoulder.
Regarded as the centerpiece of the Washington offense, Portis has played the entire season in discomfort because of the shoulder injury and its lingering effects. He has carried 127 times for 523 yards and seven touchdowns, but those numbers are well below the standards he established in his first four seasons in the league.
"If it would have happened in earlier years, I probably would
have been frustrated and upset and wondering why and questioning
this and questioning that," Portis told AP. "But I'm older, much
wiser, much more mature. I understand the business of the game. I
had four wonderful years as a running back with no injuries,
nothing major, not missing many games, being on the field and
playing at a level that most people don't play at, and it's only a
matter of time before that catches up with any running back.
"Fortunately for me, it was minor things that can be repaired
and won't linger into next season. This could have been a knee or
something major. I could have broken my neck when they twisted my
body around. I just look at the positive side of it."
Originally drafted by Denver, and then traded to the Redskins in 2004 in a deal that sent cornerback Champ Bailey to the Broncos, the former University of Miami star ran for more than 1,300 yards in each of his first four seasons, and for more than 1,500 yards in three of those campaigns.
In 68 appearances, including 63 starts, Portis has 6,453 yards and 52 touchdowns on 1,385 rushes. He has established himself as a workhorse-type back and, even with the injuries truncating his season, his rushing statistics are among the best in the NFL for a player in his first five seasons.
Betts is an excellent receiver and third-down back, but has also been productive on those occasions when he has filled in for Portis and registered some carries. He has 82 rushes for 366 yards and one touchdown this season, with 30 receptions for 231 yards.
Coach Joe Gibbs said Monday that, with Portis sidelined, veteran tailback T.J. Duckett would have his role expanded. The Redskins traded third- and fourth-round draft picks after Portis suffered the shoulder injury this summer, acquiring him in a three-team deal as an insurance policy at running back. But the former Atlanta first-round draft choice has appeared in just three games and carried only seven times.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here. The Associated Press contributed to this report.