Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis was sporting a new haircut — a modified Mohawk dyed red — he said he had been planning since June.

“Just to mix things up,” he said. “Change my look.”

No doubt about it. It wasn’t the same Portis last night — on or off the field.

He did manage to play against the Minnesota Vikings even though it recently appeared he wouldn’t after partially dislocating his left shoulder eight plays into the first preseason game. And he did get into the end zone.

“It was great to have one of our best players in there,” quarterback Mark Brunell said. “It kind of shows you what kind of guy Clinton is.”

But only occasionally did Portis resemble the game-changing runner who slashed and bulled for more than 1,500 yards last season while setting a franchise single-season record. Starter Ladell Betts also did little, and the Redskins’ lack of a rushing game figured highly in their 19-16 loss at FedEx Field.

Entering the game for Betts, his usual backup, on the Redskins’ first possession after the Vikings took a 6-0 lead, Portis scored his team’s only touchdown. It was a 5-yard run good for a short-lived 10-6 lead with 8:06 left in the second quarter.

All told, though, Portis managed just 39 yards on 10 carries. Take away a 15-yard run in the second half and it simply wasn’t the usual Portis.

At least his tender shoulder survived, which should bode well for better days ahead.

“I didn’t know if they’d let me play,” he said. “Once the adrenaline started going and the crowd started getting in the game, that little pain went away. I felt good.”

Still, he acknowledged, “I know it’s gonna be sore. It’s sore right now.”

Early on, Portis fell on his shoulder and said it “tingled” but insisted there were no aftereffects. Even though he hasn’t played since last year, for all practical purposes, he said he did not feel rusty. The first contact he absorbed “pretty much showed me the arm was stable and I could take a hit,” he said. “OK, time to play football.”

Portis’ inconsistency typified a Redskins offense that had to settle for just the one touchdown and three field goals by John Hall.

“You’ve got to score TDs,” Portis said.

Betts, who gained just 22 yards on eight carries, felt the same.

“I think we moved the ball well at times, but we weren’t consistent at the crucial times we needed to be,” he said. “Anybody could have won. It came down to a kick. But you never want to see a game come down to a field goal here, a field goal there. But it did, and you have to live with it.”

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