- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

IRVING, Texas — Clinton Portis was told Wednesday by coach Joe Gibbs he would not play for the Washington Redskins last night against the Dallas Cowboys.

Two days after recording 10 carries and two receptions against the Minnesota Vikings, the Redskins running back was benched because of a rotator cuff injury in his already-hurt left shoulder. He did not practice at all in the week leading up to the 27-10 loss to the Cowboys last night.

The Redskins offense managed only a field goal and 93 yards rushing in Portis’ absence.

“His mind was made up on Wednesday that we didn’t want to take a chance,” Portis said. “We don’t want this to be a setback for the whole season. But I tried to talk him into letting me play.”

Portis said he “jammed his rotator cuff” against the Vikings.

“It was a fluke,” he said. “I felt excellent [yesterday], but Coach Gibbs made his decision.”

Portis said that communication with Gibbs was fine, but he still held out hope he would play.

“It’s there,” Portis said. “I was holding out, but his mind was made up.”

Said Gibbs: “All Clinton has is a bruise on the back part of his shoulder. It’s sore, but nothing [is] wrong with it. We don’t want to play somebody who is sore and can’t practice. It’s a different spot from the original injury.

“Clinton and I talked every single day last week. We tried to make sure that everything we turned into the league [on the injury report] was exactly right. Clinton is always going to want to play. I admire him for that. As a coach, you have to sometimes see through all that.”

It was only the second game Portis has missed since joining the Redskins in 2004. He missed the finale against Minnesota that season.

Portis has the Redskins’ only touchdown through two games. He’s confident his return will spark the offense.

“I think once they plug me back into the offense, a lot of things will change as far as pass blocking, pass receiving and having consistent plays instead of going three-and-out,” he said. “Everything will change.”

Brunell breaks in footballs

Thanks to a NFL rule approved during the offseason, Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell was able to break in 12 footballs last week in preparation for last night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Previously, the home team supplied all 24 footballs, and the visiting team would not be able to handle them until game time. That made for some slippery oblong objects.

“It makes quite a bit of difference,” Brunell said. “They get worked in so they’re not right out of the box. A lot of times before, you could lose the grip early in the game.”

The change was spearheaded by star quarterbacks Tom Brady of New England and Peyton Manning of Indianapolis. They approached fellow quarterbacks, including Brunell, Green Bay’s Brett Favre, Jacksonville’s Byron Leftwich and Houston’s David Carr, about asking the league’s competition committee to change the rule.

According to the Redskins, the team received 24 game balls last week to use in road games at Dallas and Houston next Sunday. The referees inspect the footballs and stamp them before the games.

“The day of the game, you get to prep them a little,” Brunell said. “But until you get some dirt and grass on them, they don’t feel broken in. It’s certainly a big deal for a lot of guys. We were having a tough time.”

Brunell said a new ball takes about half a practice to get worked in.

“You don’t have to spit on it, but the best way to get them ready is throw it around in practice,” he said. “When you get to the game, they’re already worked in.”

The footballs used for punting and kicking aren’t given to the Redskins until 90 minutes before game time. Equipment employees can work on those footballs for 20 minutes before giving them back to the officials.

Joe and the Tuna

Last night’s game was the 22nd time Washington’s Joe Gibbs and Dallas’ Bill Parcells have coached against each other and the first since both officially became senior citizens.

Parcells, who joined Gibbs in the 65-year-old club in August, cherishes these matchups against the Hall of Famer with whom he first matched wits 23 seasons ago.

“We’re both very fortunate to be doing something we like at our age,” Parcells said. “When you get to be our age, it gets a little more precious to you because you know it’s not going to go on forever now. I’m glad we’ve been able to compete against each other for many years. Joe is someone I have the highest regard for and always will.”

Although Gibbs won both meetings last year, he lost 13 of 16 meetings from mid-1980 to 1990, when Parcells was coaching the New York Giants. That included a 17-0 loss in the 1986 NFC Championship game, Gibbs’ only defeat in five such games.

“Last year down there was one of those miracle endings, and up here we played extremely well,” Gibbs said. “I know what we expect down there. We expect a war. I know what kind of team they’ve got and what kind of coach they’ve got. We’re expecting the worst. We’ve had a tough time down there.”

Actually, Gibbs was a surprisingly good 7-6 at Texas Stadium before last night. Other Redskins coaches are 2-18 here.

Bad timing

Quarterback Todd Collins waited eight seasons, five behind iron man Trent Green, and never started a game in Kansas City. Collins, 34, signed with the Redskins in March only to have Green go down with a concussion in the first game after he left the Chiefs. Green will miss at least two games.

“Yeah, it’s ironic, but I wasn’t thinking about that,” said Collins, who threw just 27 passes in those eight years with the Chiefs. “My first concern was for Trent. He was out for 11 minutes, and no one knew how badly he was hurt. I called [several former coaches and teammates] to see how he was, and I called Trent and left a message to let him know I was thinking about him.”

Brunell as host

Drew Bledsoe was a highly recruited prospect out of Walla Walla (Wash.) High School in 1989 when he made his official visit to the University of Washington in Seattle. His host for the weekend was an up-and-coming Huskies quarterback — Mark Brunell.

Bledsoe wound up playing at archrival Washington State, where he played against Brunell for three seasons before both left for the NFL. Last night, they squared off again.

“He was crazy back then. The parties we went to, it was insane,” Bledsoe said as a joke about big-time straight-arrow Brunell. “I’m happy to hear that nobody found out about all the illegal things that he did. I know that he’s calmed down a little bit.”

Brunell just laughed when told about Bledsoe’s comments.

Inactive list

As Gibbs said would be the case Friday, running back Clinton Portis was declared inactive because of an injured shoulder. Joining Portis on the Redskins sideline were cornerback Shawn Springs (abdominal surgery), safety Curry Burns, offensive tackles Jim Molinaro and Todd Wade and defensive tackles Anthony Montgomery and Ryan Boschetti. Jason Campbell was the third quarterback.

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