- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

A long rehabilitation isn’t quite over for Washington Redskins cornerback Walt Harris, who doesn’t expect to be “peaking” for about a month. But good enough is good enough, especially because the team kept just four corners on the 53-man roster.

When the Redskins open the season Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Harris will line up as the No.3 cornerback. His status follows an impressive recovery from a type of knee surgery that, according to director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer, had only a “50-50” chance of success.

Harris acknowledged yesterday he isn’t fully healthy after having a third of his patella tendon removed in February. He played sparingly in the preseason, at one point suffering a calf strain from “overcompensating” for the opposite knee. But he is confident the Redskins “can count on me all year.”

“My knee is definitely not 100 percent,” Harris said. “But if I’m able to go out there and compete and perform, I feel pretty good about it. And I feel a lot better than I did at this time last year.”

The knee last season caused Harris, then an Indianapolis Colt, so much pain that he needed numbing shots to make it through virtually every game. The Redskins took a gamble on the former first-round pick, signing him to a three-year, $4.1million contract.

Despite opening camp on the physically unable to perform list, Harris won the battle at third corner. Ralph Brown and Rashad Bauman, his two primary competitors, both were cut, leaving Ade Jimoh as the only other cornerback behind Shawn Springs (another injury risk), Fred Smoot and Harris.

Jimoh is best known for getting burned on several big plays as an undrafted rookie last year. But assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams said he is confident about what Harris can contribute.

“He’s doing very well,” Williams said. “Each day’s a new day, but he’s done very well. He’s a pro’s pro.”

Right guys blocking

Return man Chad Morton is optimistic about his second year with the Redskins — especially now that he has the right personnel in front of him.

Many of Morton’s blockers now are the speedy linebackers so prevalent in Williams’ defense and the tight ends who comprise a key part of coach Joe Gibbs’ offense. Too frequently last year, according to Morton, players from other positions inhabited those roles.

“Nothing on [defensive end] Peppi Zellner, but they can’t put him out on the front line,” Morton said. “He missed 90 percent of his blocks. A lot of times, I had to dodge him. But it’s not his fault. They put him out there.”

Morton’s first season with the Redskins was solid but not quite what was expected following his high-profile defection from the New York Jets. He averaged 23.4 yards on kickoffs, taking one back 94 yards for a touchdown, and 9.9 yards on punts.

His performance this preseason, other than a 27-yard punt return in last week’s closing win over the Atlanta Falcons, was nothing special. But he thinks things will change when the full scheme is utilized.

“We do a lot of things on special teams that we haven’t even shown,” Morton said. “We should be pretty good this year.”

Portis ‘injury’ is a hoax

A false report surfaced on the Internet saying Redskins running back Clinton Portis was out “8-12 weeks” with a herniated disk. Team officials quickly debunked it, but not before the news got posted on CBS SportsLine.com and piqued the interest of a variety of print and broadcast reporters.

“It was egregious and, frankly, unforgivable, and we apologize to our readers, Portis and to the Redskins for publishing the misinformation,” SportsLine.com managing editor Mark Swanson wrote on the Web site.

The initial report was a fake story inserted into the NFL.com template and posted on a random site in cyberspace. A similar report apparently was done Wednesday concerning Dallas Cowboys guard Larry Allen. The NFL’s legal arm was investigating, seeking to head off any future hoaxes.

Extra points

The Redskins held out hope middle linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) would participate in some part of the Bucs game. Barrow continued to get limited activity in practice after missing the entire preseason.

“We’re going to take it all the way down to the weekend,” Williams said. “We’ve got some packages that are set up if he’s able to answer the bell. … I never count out a vet, especially one I know and have been in ballgames with.” …

Williams wouldn’t comment on who would start at nose tackle. Joe Salave’a preliminarily was listed ahead of Brandon Noble.

“We’re going to play a lot of guys there,” Williams said. “What [the Bucs] do offensively [determines] who actually is the nose.” …

The Redskins signed recently cut linebacker Clifton Smith to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Ryan Boschetti.

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