ASHBURN, Va. --Clinton Portis was a bit cranky Monday. His
sore shoulder kept him from sleeping, and now he was having to
drive to the airport for a flight to Alabama to see a specialist.
Once he arrived, another MRI and more examinations did little to
reveal whether the Washington Redskins' star running back would be
healthy for the season opener. For Portis, the only good news was
that he won't play again this preseason.
"I don't know why myself or any other player of my caliber
should be playing in the preseason," said Portis, a sling over his
left shoulder as he departed Redskins Park. "I think for the last
four years I've done enough to show the world I'm going to be ready
for the season."
Portis partially dislocated his shoulder in Sunday night's 19-3
loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, then afterward revived the debate
whether the preseason is too long and if proven veterans should be
playing at all.
Portis traveled to the office of noted orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., for a two-hour consultation.
Dr. Andrews told the Redskins that Portis should be ready for the regular season opener on Sept. 11 against the Vikings, a source told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
Dr. Andrews provided Portis with specific rehabilitation therapy to enable his return by that date.
Dr. Andrews was able to confirm through an MRI that Portis suffered a partial dislocation in Sunday night's preseason game, diminishing potential damage that could have been more severe had the shoulder popped out entirely.
However, the source told Mortensen, Portis' availability for the opener does depend on how he responds to rehabilitation.
Two medical sources told Mortensen that a dislocation or subluxation can be troublesome because the labrum cartilage and fibrous tissue that surrounds the shoulder capsule is usually stretched. The looseness that is created by the trauma can be tightened through therapy but surgery often is an option, even if it is at the end of a season.
Back at Redskins Park, coach Joe Gibbs began with the medical
news. He said Portis' shoulder was sore and that the back, who ran
for a club-record 1,516 yards last season, would begin
rehabilitation once the soreness abates. The coach focused on
Portis' chances of playing in the Sept. 11 game against Minnesota.
"We would hope that he would be ready for the opener," Gibbs
Gibbs then defended the use of Portis and his starters against
the Bengals, feeling the need to answer Portis' criticisms even
though the starting offense was on the field for only 13 plays.
"If you back off that, you hurt the preparation for your
team," Gibbs said. "It's the toughest thing in football. It's a
Portis was hurt when he launched himself into an upper body
tackle of cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, who had run 52 yards down the
sideline after picking off a pass from Mark Brunell. He said he had
a similar injury to his right shoulder in high school, and this one
was not as serious -- even though it kept him up all night.
"Any way I rolled, it hurt," he said. He was also concerned
that opposing tacklers will target the shoulder once the regular
Portis is a major part of the Redskins' attack. He set a
franchise record with nine 100-yard games last season, and his five
straight 100-yard games in December and January coincided with a
five-game winning streak that led to the team's first playoff berth
in six years.
There have been frequent calls in recent years to shorten the
number of exhibition games from four to two. Critics cite the risk
of injuries and that players no longer need the games to get in
shape because most take part in year-round conditioning programs.
Two years ago, the Redskins lost tackle Jon Jansen for the season
with a ruptured Achilles' tendon in the first preseason game.
Ironically, Portis would be in greater danger of missing the
opener if there were only two exhibition games. As it is, he has a
nearly a month to heal for the regular season instead of a couple
Gibbs said Portis' comments were made in frustration, and the
coach declined to pass judgment on whether four preseason games
were too many. He did say, however, that the Redskins began
training camp as late as possible and did not have live tackling
during practices, so the games were important for all his players
regardless of the risk of injury.
"You don't want to run the risk unless you feel it's something
super important," Gibbs said. "And it is."
Portis' injury wasn't the worst of the night. Running back Kerry Carter, vying for a roster spot in a crowded backfield, tore two
ligaments in his right knee and is out for the year. Reserve
linebacker Chris Clemons, a pass-rushing presence on third downs
last year, sprained a ligament in his left knee.
"They're telling me four to six weeks," said Clemons, who
sprained his right knee late last season and missed the playoffs.
"I was getting double-teamed. I got hit from the side and my leg
crumpled. I heard a pop."
The injuries to Portis and Carter left the Redskins thin at
running back. Second-stringer Ladell Betts missed the game with a
hamstring injury, and first-year player Jesse Lumsden did not make
the trip because of a hip flexor. Rock Cartwright is currently the
team's best healthy back, although Betts and Lumsden could return
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.