Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis is "50-50" for Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys because of a sprained knee, a surprise development for a team that had hoped to come back healthy from a bye-week vacation.
Portis, who is second in the NFL in rushing with 995 yards on 200 carries, was not on the field Monday as the Redskins resumed practice after a five-day break. Coach Jim Zorn said the injury Portis suffered in last week's 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was not as innocuous as initially thought.
Portis was hurt on the final play of the first quarter against the Steelers and limped to the sideline with what was initially called a bruised knee, but he returned for the next series and finished the game. The pain got progressively worse over the following days, however, and Zorn said Monday that Portis has a bone bruise on the femur as well as a sprain.
"He's questionable," Zorn said. "I'd say there's a 50-50 chance. I'm hoping that he'll be even better than that. Another day of rest, and then we'll see how he comes in on Wednesday. ... We've got to get the pain out of the knee and see how he progresses along."
Portis' absence from a major game against a division rival would be tough to overcome. He's been the engine of the Redskins offense, and his primary backup, Ladell Betts, has missed the last three games with a more severe knee injury. Shaun Alexander, signed after Betts got hurt, has contributed little, and the other running back on the roster, Rock Cartwright, is heavily involved with special teams.
Betts also did not practice Monday, but Zorn said the back should take part "in limited fashion" on Wednesday.
"It would be a major for all of us involved" if Portis can't play, Zorn said. "He's kind of a driving force, if you will. It may be a community position, but it has to be done if he's not able to go."
Overall, the Redskins weren't as healthy as expected Monday, considering that the bye was supposed to give everyone time to recover from various ailments. Receiver Santana Moss (hamstring), linebacker Marcus Washington (shoulder), cornerback Shawn Springs (calf) and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery (Achilles' tendon) also did not practice. Zorn said he thinks Moss will play Sunday, but he expressed varying degrees of uncertainty about the other three.
The bye did allow time for a pair of previously ailing players to get back on the field. Defensive end Jason Taylor practiced after missing the Steelers game with a calf injury, and rookie receiver Malcolm Kelly was giving his balky knee another chance. Kelly has missed most of the season, and the Redskins have been pondering for weeks whether to place him on injured reserve.
Backup quarterback Todd Collins was absent because of a sinus infection that ruptured his ear drum. Doctors advised Collins not to fly, so he is driving to Redskins Park from his home in Massachusetts.