Portis out for rest of preseason with shoulder injury

Updated: August 15, 2006, 2:55 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

Running Back
Washington Redskins

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2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
352 1516 11 30 216 0

"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 said.

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 balancing act."

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 season begins.

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 weeks.

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 this week.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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