From the moment he was flat on his back, writhing in agony, it was clear that Clinton Portis's preseason was probably over just a few plays after it began. This was no ordinary bruise, no routine shoulder stinger, and the concern was apparent along the Redskins' sideline.
Quarterback Mark Brunell, whose sloppy pass resulted in an interception and Portis's subsequent tackle of Cincinnati defensive back Keiwan Ratliff, was headed off the field, when he saw - or heard - Portis, and immediately backtracked to the runner's side. All available team doctors were immediately looking at Portis's left shoulder once he got to his feet, and in no time at all he was whisked away for X-rays.
As the minutes passed, and updates of other injured players became available but not Portis, you could sense it was something at least somewhat serious. Then came an announcement in the press box that X-Rays were negative ... but an MRI was being conducted right away. Finally, probably at least an hour after Portis first hit the turf, came the word that Portis had a subluxation of his shoulder, which, after a consulting a few on-line medical dictionaries, we figured out meant a partially dislocated shoulder. He left Redskins Park for more testing this afternoon, and further results are not yet available. I'll let you know when anything becomes available.
From what we learned Sunday night, the ball-and-socket in his shoulder had slipped out of place (then back in), and, while there are other means of immediate rehab other than surgery, Portis's body language, and verbal language, told a long story. He seemed convinced that this would be an issue throughout the regular season, and, as a smaller back who plays with extreme aggression in taking on massive blockers, he's probably right. He'll be playing in some degree of pain or discomfort from his first regular season snap, and the inevitable pounding of his body will take a toll.
Portis runs low to the ground and takes a substantial number of hits off his shoulders, which has resulted in many stingers in the past. He is a focal point of Washington's offense - and thus every opposing defensive coach's game plan against the Redskins - and expects to be targeted by linebackers. Getting that shoulder as tight and strong as it should be seems unlikely during the season, and it could very well pop out again.
Given his toughness, Portis could still be a very productive player in this system despite it all, but he's also taken a real pounding in four NFL seasons, and has 695 carries in two years in Washington after rushing 563 in two seasons in Denver. That's a substantial increase.
Add in the fact that second-string back Ladell Betts is frequently nicked up, and is currently hampered by a hamstring injury, prospect Kerry Carter is out for the year after shredding his knee Sunday night, and up-and-comer Jesse Lumsden has a has a hip flexor, and suddenly there's only Rock Cartwright and fullbacks Mike Sellers and Nehemiah Broughton in the backfield.
I found some of the recent speculation about Betts being traded kind of funny - I couldn't see a team with Super Bowl ambition dealing a valuable asset like that now, weeks before the season with so few other options around - and Portis's injury makes it all the more clear why. My feeling all along was that the defense would again be the hallmark of the Redskins - I see the D scoring a lot more points this season off sacks and turnovers, too - and without a healthy Portis, I feel even more strongly about it.
It is going to take some time for the offensive players to catch on to Al Saunders's system, anyway, and while I anticipate progress on that side of the ball, I don't see it being in the top three of the NFL right away. The defense, I believe, is already that good, and will carry a large share of the load, again. After just one meaningless game, the pressure on that unit may have already increased.
I hope to show Cooley a printout of our finalists from the Redskins' chant contest Tuesday, so I should have a winner for you all sometime soon ... Saw my first mega church along the side of I-75 going from Cincy to Dayton for our flight back to DC this morning. It looked like a campus or compound, with this massive, ornate statute of a religious figure rising from the ground with arms outstretched. It must have spanned 50-60 feet above the highway, and was surrounded by this fancy fountain. Looked like thousands of people could fit in that church/arena on Sunday, and, judging by the architecture, they must be doing okay when the collection baskets get passed around ... Linebacker Chris Clemons says he'll be out at least 4-to-6 weeks with a tear in his left knee ... If Jesse Lumsden doesn't find a way to shake off his hip injury and get back on the field soon, I'd be shocked. He already was showing signs of forcing his way on the roster, and the Skins might keep an extra back around now with Portis and Betts not 100 percent ... Another un-drafted free agent, receiver Mike Espy, showed well again Sunday, too. I have a feeling he'll stick around, if even just on the practice squad ... Jason Campbell looked solid, albeit again a scrub defense, but that last pass - an easy interception - showed his youth and inexperience. Still, he looked a heck of a lot better than veteran Todd Collins. Yikes. Redskins Nation must be hoping that performance was due to nerves in Collins's first game with Washington. He struggled mightily.
Sorry about the late posting; travel was a pain and kept me off-line. I'll have more for you guys when we get some medical update.
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