- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis sat out practice yesterday with what coach Joe Gibbs described as a “little bit” of a strained groin. Portis, the focal point of Washington’s offense this season, vowed to return today.

“I’m straight,” Portis said as he walked off the field in shorts and a baseball cap. “Everything’s all right. Just a day off. You’ll see me tomorrow.”

He added: “Everybody’s sore from getting back in the swing of things. That’s the only problem. Ain’t nothing else wrong. Just soreness. I ain’t got no injuries, nothing wrong.”

Gibbs, trying to protect players during training camp, noted that Portis wasn’t the only one with that particular injury.

“He had a little bit of a groin there,” Gibbs said. “We’ve had about three of those, which concern you. We’ve been trying to be careful. Somebody tells you you have that, you want to back off some.”

With Portis and running back Ladell Betts (hamstring) sidelined, Rock Cartwright took snaps with the starters. Cartwright performed admirably last season (411 yards on 107 carries) when Trung Canidate and Betts went down, but he might get squeezed at the end of camp if he can’t carve a role on special teams.

Among other injuries, defensive end Phillip Daniels (abdomen) and wide receivers Taylor Jacobs (abdomen) and Cliff Russell (hamstring) remained out.

Dockery slims down

Offensive line coach Joe Bugel said left guard Derrick Dockery lost about 20 pounds this offseason, dropping from 345 to about 325 and working off the baby fat that was so apparent in his rookie season out of Texas.

“I’ll tell you what: he has made an about-face this offseason,” Bugel said. “Conditioning-wise, getting down to the proper weight, maximizing his strength — and it’s transferred from the weight room onto the football field. He’s one of the most powerful guys on our offensive line right now.”

Dockery, a third-round pick last year, steadily improved after being thrust into Dave Fiore’s starting role. By season’s end it was clear Dockery had solidified his position for 2004. Assuming he can keep the weight off, he provides Washington a solid mix of agility and power on the left side of the line, where he and tackle Chris Samuels work in tandem and are close friends.

“I think he has a chance to be a very, very good football player this year,” Bugel said. “And in the long range, I think he’s going to be a great player for us.”

Ohalete wondering

Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete isn’t sure why he’s languishing on the third string. After starting 24 games the past two seasons, Ohalete has plummeted behind third-year pro Andre Lott and first-round draft pick Sean Taylor.

“It’s part of the game. I mean … I don’t know,” Ohalete said. “I don’t really have anything to say about it. All I can do is work hard to get back to where I was, where I’m supposed to be. I feel I deserve to be up there number one. If the coaches don’t feel that way, I’ve got to prove them wrong.”

Ohalete’s situation appears to be the result of Lott’s improvement and the fact that Taylor has to get enough reps to show whether he’s ready to start. But while Ohalete wasn’t expected to beat out Taylor, it’s surprising that he’s basically off the radar.

“I really don’t know what happened,” Ohalete said. “That’s for the powers that be.”

Extra points

There is some sentiment around the NFL that Taylor’s seven-year, $18 million contract isn’t as weak in comparison to Larry Fitzgerald’s deal as initially believed. The Arizona wide receiver’s pact apparently was somewhat overstated in early reports.

Fitzgerald, according to two NFL sources, received guarantees in the $15 million range, not the reported $20 million range. However, Fitzgerald can meet escalators in the back side of his package much easier than Taylor. Taylor improved over last year’s No. 5 pick, Dallas cornerback Terence Newman, by getting any escalators at all. …

Cornerback Fred Smoot said he and former teammate Champ Bailey are keeping in touch. Bailey was traded to the Broncos for Clinton Portis.

“Believe it or not, I talk to Champ about every three days,” Smoot said. “He’s happy. I can tell you that. And a happy Champ Bailey is going to play some good football.” …

The Redskins have closed their team store at Union Station in the District, and are moving the shop to MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Va. The Redskins have 12 team stores in Maryland and Virginia.

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