Four’s a crowd for Redskins’ backfield

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When the Washington Redskins opted to keep four tailbacks on their 53-man roster Saturday, it produced three developments: Marcus Mason had shown enough to avoid another year on the practice squad, Rock Cartwright is strictly a special teams player and Ladell Betts ultimately could be the odd man out.

As the Redskins began preparations Monday for the season opener at the New York Giants, the three players’ emotions ran the gamut.

Mason was relieved.

“I’m blessed to have this opportunity,” he said.

Betts was in the dark as to his role.

“I have no idea,” he said. “That’s something the coaches have to address.”

And Cartwright was ticked.

“I would rather be just meeting with the special teams coach because I know I’m not going to get any plays at running back,” he said.

The Redskins have created a numbers problem because they’re so high on Mason, who led the NFL in rushing last preseason (317 yards) and gained 88 yards this preseason while getting several chances to play with the starters.

Coach Jim Zorn acknowledged all three reserves can’t be active on game day.

The locks are Clinton Portis as the starter and, most likely, Cartwright as a core special teams player. That will leave Betts and Mason to fight for playing time.

Betts wasn’t cut because it would have triggered a $3 million hit on this year’s salary cap, severely limiting the Redskins’ in-season spending flexibility.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell confirmed the depth chart and Mason’s ascension over Cartwright.

“We think [Mason] is a talented running back,” Mitchell said. “We went with two quarterbacks, and it just worked out for him this year. We know he can run the ball; he has good hands and good vision.”

Mitchell said if Portis and Betts get banged up early in the season and can’t practice, Mason would be included in the game plan.

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