You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
It didn’t quite seem to add up.
The members of the media were allowed to watch practice for
the first 45 minutes on Thursday. It’s not unusual to see injured players out of
the field riding a stationary bike (that’s not something that TO has a monopoly
on; LaVar Arrington did it quite a bit the last couple of years) or, as Shawn Springs was on that day, standing out there in shorts and a jersey, playing
catch, watching drills, doing what he could to stay engaged and involved even
though it was unlikely that he would play.
It’s also not unusual for an injured player not to be out
there, as was the case with Clinton Portis. Players often stay in the facility
What is very unusual, however, is for a player to be inside
the building for the beginning of a practice but a participant in the latter
part of the session, the part that takes place after the press is booted out.
But that was what happened with Portis on Thursday.
After practice was over we went downstairs and outside to catch some of the players
coming off the field to talk to them and to talk to Joe Gibbs. We expected to
be able to talk to Portis but we were thought we would find him inside near the
locker room. It was a mild day and all of those coming off the field were still
wearing their shoulder pads. All except for Portis, that is, who approached the
building dressed in sweats, no pads or helmet. It was only after we had talked
to him for a few minutes that it was revealed that he had not only practiced
but he had done so in pads. That particular bit of information was not revealed
without prompting and the question almost went unasked because we had all
assumed that he had just worked out, not practiced.
While this did have some of us curious, this feeling was
dampened by what we heard Portis and Gibbs say. The story that was written and
broadcast was on what we heard, that Portis was just 75%, and not on what we
saw, that he had practiced in pads. Portis probably wouldn’t play on Monday
night. A downgrade from questionable to doubtful or out seemed to be imminent.
In this space, I thought about writing about what I saw as
opposed to what I heard, but I wasn’t all that convinced that Portis would play.
It would have been a wishy-washy story and those usually aren’t very
interesting. To pat myself on the back a bit, however, I did choose to take a
wait and see stance on it, not amplifying the smokescreen or contradicting my earlier article and my
gut feeling by writing that Portis was out.
Of course, most of the folks who wrote the “Portis is out”
stories did not have the luxury of making that choice. They had to write
something about it and the purpose here is not to fault their judgment in
writing what they did. They went with the preponderance of the evidence even
though there was some cause for reasonable doubt in plain view.
On Friday Portis again practiced and proclaimed that he was
thinking along the lines of coming back in a week in Dallas. Again, the fact
that he practiced was lost in the verbiage. Why the team would waste valuable
practice time on reps for a guy who was virtually certain not to play was a
question that went unasked.
The smokescreen continues, of course. We don’t know—and,
more importantly, the Vikings don’t know—who will start and we don’t know how
much Portis will play. But the “if” part of the smokescreen is over. Portis has
been upgraded to probable and the Redskins would not risk the league scrutiny
that would ensue in the wake of falsifying the official injury report. Barring
a legitimate setback, Portis will play.
There are those out there who think that if Portis is not
well enough to start that he should sit it out. The fact is that who starts is
not relevant. What matters is how many carries Portis gets. I think he’ll get
about 15 to 18 regardless of whether he starts or comes in off the bench.
Why not wait a week and have him come back against Dallas
with a little more rest? First, you can’t go into any NFL game saying that you
don’t need the services of one of your best players in order to beat that week’s
opponent. Minnesota is a good, solid team that is very capable of springing
what would be just a mild upset on Monday. Also, Portis had just a couple of
weeks of training camp and he hasn’t played facing live contact save for those
few plays almost a month ago. It is unlikely that he will carry a heavy load in
his first game back regardless of whether it’s this week or next. He’ll need
this game to get back into game shape if he’s going to return to his customary
role of carrying the load against Dallas.
It appears that this was the plan all along. That’s my
conspiracy theory and I’m sticking to it.
Rich Tandler is the
author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book
has an account of every game the Redskins played from when the moved to
Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering
information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com