- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 25, 2004

Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell returned to practice yesterday, the latest in a string of upbeat signs regarding his strained hamstring.

Afterward, no pronouncement was made about Brunell’s readiness to play in Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. But his ability to take about a third of the snaps in practice signaled he is making steady progress.

“Felt good today,” Brunell said. “Got a few reps. An improvement from yesterday, which is good.”

Coach Joe Gibbs remained noncommittal, declining to say whether a choice between Brunell and Patrick Ramsey even would be made today, after the final practice of the week.

“I don’t know,” Gibbs said. “Something could change overnight. Who knows?”

Brunell, who started the first two games and compiled a 67.3 rating, only threw lightly Thursday. Yesterday he took two snaps to every four by Ramsey. The work was enough to give him a chance to play against the Cowboys, though he’s still “not 100 percent.”

“There’s a little soreness,” Brunell said. “It’s a little tight. But it’s better than yesterday. I’m pleased with that.”

‘Patience’ for Portis

Running back Clinton Portis thinks it won’t be long until he starts turning some of his short runs into the long ones he hit with regularity as a Denver Bronco.

Two-thirds of Portis’ 49 carries this season have gone for 3 or fewer yards, and he’s averaging just 3.2 when his season-opening 64-yard burst is excluded. However, he is confident that all he needs is “patience.”

“It’s September,” Portis said. “We’ve got 17 weeks in a season. Right now, teams are geared to stop our running game. We’ve got a lot of penetration, a lot of disruption in the backfield before we even get plays developed. Once we get that cut down, we’re going to be OK.”

Portis’ observation about “disruption” in the backfield is accurate. Through two games, the Redskins’ interior line has had difficulty fending off opposing defensive tackles. The New York Giants’ Fred Robbins came up huge last week, recording a pair of sacks and batting down and intercepting a pass.

Why Upshaw’s at home

Defensive line coach Greg Blache gave some insight as to why Washington didn’t re-sign defensive end Regan Upshaw this week after starter Phillip Daniels was diagnosed with a torn groin that will sideline him two to four weeks.

First, Upshaw in training camp couldn’t beat out Demetric Evans, a rising young player who spent the spring in NFL Europe.

“If we didn’t think he was one of our better players at the time, why would we bring him back?” Blache said.

Second, there’s only room on the game day roster to activate three ends. So even if Upshaw signed, he’d still be wearing street clothes Monday while Renaldo Wynn, Ron Warner and Evans played.

“There’s a method to the madness,” Blache said. “Unlike a lot of people, when things happen, we don’t run helter-skelter. We look at our options, who’s going to fit, what’s going to be the total ramifications of [a move], then make as smart a decision as we possibly can.”

Extra points

Linebacker Clifton Smith filed an injury grievance against the Redskins on Sept. 16, NFL Players Association spokesman Carl Francis said.

Injured late in the preseason, Smith was released by the Redskins in Week 1 and signed to the practice squad the next day. Shortly afterward, he was placed on injured reserve and underwent elbow surgery. Although the details of Smith’s complaint are unclear, injured players cannot be released without agreeing to an injury settlement.

Agent Stephen Hayes, who represents Smith, and Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato both declined comment. …

A league spokesman confirmed linebacker LaVar Arrington received a $5,000 fine for grabbing the face mask of New York Giants running back Tiki Barber. Arrington officially was fined for unnecessary roughness. …

Portis and Cowboys safety Roy Williams recently battled in a video game version of Washington-Dallas as a promotion for XBox Live and EA Sports Madden 2005. Portis played from in front of his 42-inch television at home, while Williams was at a hotel room in Dallas. The Redskins won big 27-2.

“Roy [stunk],” Portis said yesterday, before adding with a smile, “in the video game.”

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