Sunday, August 8, 2004

Clinton Portis won’t let a strained groin keep him from making his Washington Redskins debut tomorrow night.

“I’ll be out there Monday night,” Portis said yesterday after being cleared by the team’s training staff to suit up one day after missing practice with the injury. “Don’t believe [speculation that he won’t play]. I’ll be out there.”

Coach Joe Gibbs echoed his tailback’s sentiments, saying Portis looked strong enough in practice yesterday to give him the green light.

Said Gibbs: “I would think he can go.”

It would have been hard to keep Portis out of tomorrow’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Denver Broncos, not only because it’s his first in a Redskins uniform but because it’s against the team that traded him away last spring.

Portis, who was dealt to Washington for Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft pick, has been looking forward to this game since it first showed up on the NFL’s schedule. Of course, he’d rather the Denver matchup occur in September, or even January, instead of August.

“It will be fun. It would be more fun if it was a game that actually counts,” Portis said. “If I have a spectacular, five-touchdown game, no one will remember it because it’s the preseason. If I see them in the Super Bowl, it will be more exciting.”

Portis wasn’t the only big-name Redskins starter cleared yesterday to play in Canton, Ohio. Linebacker LaVar Arrington, who sat out both of Friday’s practice sessions with a bruised shin, participated in yesterday’s workout and is expected to start against the Broncos.

Fellow linebacker Mike Barrow won’t be so fortunate. The veteran missed a second day of practice with tendinitis in his left knee, and Gibbs said it’s unlikely he’ll play.

The same holds true for offensive guard Randy Thomas (swollen knee), defensive end Phillip Daniels (abdominal strain) and nose tackle Brandon Noble (broken hand). None practiced yesterday, and all are expected to miss tomorrow’s game.

McCants wants to play

Darnerien McCants tied Laveranues Coles for the team lead with six touchdown receptions in 2003, but past performance hasn’t guaranteed the third-year wide receiver playing time in 2004.

McCants, who caught 27 passes for 360 yards and scored on a pair of two-point conversions last season, is currently the Redskins’ No.4 receiver, behind starters Coles and Rod Gardner and veteran James Thrash. The Anne Arundel County native has to fight off perceptions that he’s nothing more than a solid possession receiver who excels inside the 20-yard line.

“I want to show that I can play all game,” he said. “I was a red zone guy [last year]. I want to show them I can play the middle of the field as well as the red zone. I just need to play, plain and simple.”

Though he’s hoping to get more playing time, McCants isn’t complaining about the hefty competition during training camp. Also in the mix for a roster spot are 2003 second-round pick Taylor Jacobs, 2002 third-round pick Cliff Russell and a host of undrafted free agents.

“It’s pretty tough,” McCants said. “This is the best competition we’ve had, in my opinion. Each year it’s gotten better and better. All it does is push you to the limit. You don’t have much room to make errors.”

Extra points

Several reserves are likely to wind up starting tomorrow night’s game due to various injuries. Veteran Kevin Mitchell will start at inside linebacker in place of Barrow. Right end Regan Upshaw and nose tackle Joe Salave’a are in line to replace Daniels and Noble, respectively. Kenyatta Jones takes over at right guard for Thomas. …

Following a brief walk-through at Redskin Park this morning, the team will depart for Canton. Players aren’t required to return to Redskin Park until Wednesday, when the team holds its last two open practices of camp.

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