- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Ladell Betts is running out of time to assure himself of a roster spot with the Washington Redskins.

The third-year tailback, who has yet to play this preseason with a pulled hamstring, has been forced to watch from the sideline as his fellow backs pile up yards on the field.

Though Betts clearly has the most potential among the crop of rushers competing to back up starter Clinton Portis, it has been difficult for the former second-round draft pick to make much of an impression on the Redskins coaching staff.

“It’s hard,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “I think he’s a very talented guy. He’s a very good receiver coming out of the backfield. But when you get a limited number of looks like that, it’s hard.”

Once regarded as the clear-cut No.2 tailback behind Portis, Betts now finds himself battling Rock Cartwright, John Simon and Sultan McCullough for a place on Washington’s roster. All three of those less-gifted players have looked impressive at times during the preseason — Cartwright led the team with 47 rushing yards two weeks ago against Carolina, Simon racked up 85 total yards Saturday night in Miami and McCullough has a club-best 119 rushing yards over three games.

Betts has returned to practice and said he hopes to play Friday night in St. Louis, though trainer Bubba Tyer gave him 50-50 odds of making the trip. Having missed a good portion of last season with a broken arm, Betts to date only has had a few minicamp practices to work out in front of the new coaching staff.

“I’ve been out there to show them what I can do,” he said. “I just haven’t been out there in awhile to show them what I can do. I think they know what kind of player they have in me. I just had a minor setback with a hamstring injury, and there’s not much you can do with that.”

Though Gibbs isn’t revealing his plans for the running back position, he hinted yesterday that Betts could be behind the 8-ball because of his injury history.

“You’ve got to have guys you feel like are durable,” Gibbs said. “At that spot, you’ve got to be a real physical guy to be able to make it through the year. … We’re just looking for guys who are very dependable and tough.”

Arrington, Barrow still out

Two-thirds of the Redskins’ starting linebacker corps remain sidelined, with LaVar Arrington and Mike Barrow each nursing knee injuries.

Arrington, who sprained his left knee during practice last week, originally had hoped to be back on the field yesterday but was held out by the team’s training staff. He remains day-to-day, and a decision hasn’t been made whether he can play Friday night against the Rams, though the injury is not considered serious.

“I have nothing to say until I make a play on the field,” Arrington said.

Barrow, meanwhile, has not been in full pads since aggravating a nagging knee injury Aug.7. He has yet to appear in a preseason game, making it difficult for Washington’s new-look defense to jell.

“The thing that concerns you some there is the conditioning process because both of them are missing practices,” Gibbs said of Barrow and Arrington. “[Barrow] feels like he’s getting better. It’s just a matter of time. We’d love to have him back out there. They’re important guys.”

Russell back

One player who did find his way back onto the field yesterday was wide receiver Cliff Russell, the Redskins’ third-round pick in 2002 who had missed all of training camp with a strained hamstring.

Russell’s pro career has been beset with injuries. He blew out his knee in training camp as a rookie and missed the entire season. He then battled a variety of smaller injuries last year and was activated for only three games.

All the time away has left the speedy Russell in a tough spot, trying to surpass Darnerien McCants, Taylor Jacobs and others on the depth chart at receiver.

Russell, though, said he refuses to let himself feel snake bitten over his bad luck.

“At first I thought that way,” he said. “Now I believe everything happens for a reason. Despite all the things I’ve been through, I’m just going to keep working hard. I’m young. I still have a lot of football left in me. It’s just something that I have to go through.”

Extra points

Kicker John Hall was excused by the club to return to his hometown of Port Charlotte, Fla., where he has family and friends still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Charley. …

In addition to Arrington and Barrow, defensive linemen Phillip Daniels (abdomen) and Cornelius Griffin (hip), cornerback Walt Harris (calf), tight end Fred Baxter (knee), linebacker Chris Clemons (hamstring) and offensive lineman Dwayne Morgan (knee) all sat out practice yesterday. Wide receiver Darnerien McCants (ankle) and H-back Mike Sellers (ankle) returned after missing Saturday’s game.

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