Notebook: Portis a question mark for Sunday

OWINGS MILLS – Washington Redskins star running back Clinton Portis' neck is still hurting so bad that his coach compared it to the lingering effects of a car wreck. Portis' knee and hip are aching, too, and he has yet to practice this week.

Nonetheless, the Baltimore Ravens anticipate the NFL's second leading rusher t o answer the bell Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Clinton Portis, we expect him to be there, no question about it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "With all their different backs, they run the same offense, so preparation will be the same."

Portis has rushed for 1,228 yards, but sprained his left knee against the Pittsburgh Steelers, strained an oblique against the Seattle Seahawks and badly hurt his neck in a loss against the New York Giants where he rushed for just 22 yards on 11 carries.

"He's still trying to loosen up his stiff neck," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said. "He did take a pretty good bash in the head. It really did stiffen up his neck like a whiplash. The knee is not great.

"Once he decides that he can go, he doesn't hesitate and that's why I keep playing him. If I thought that he was going to hold back or was going at a slow pace, I wouldn't have him play. When I see burst and I see him accelerate, I think we owe it ourselves to play him."

Portis leads the NFL with 1,415 all-purpose yards, total first downs (70) and rushing first downs (61).

While he generated 124.8 yards per contest in the Redskins' seven victories, he has produced just a 70.8 average in the five defeats.

Portis' workload is d ecreasing as the Redskins' losses are mounting.

In three of the Redskins' five defeats, Portis carried fewer than 16 times. He hasn't exceeded 85 yards in any of their four losses.

"Portis is a great running back, you have to give him the ball," said free safety Ed Reed, a fellow University of Miami football alum. "I know from playing with him, if you give him the ball 20-plus times, you've got a chance at winning."

The Ravens rank third in the NFL in rushing defense, haven't allowed an opposing running back to eclipse 100 yards in a league-best 31 games and surrender just 78.3 rushing yards per game.

Portis, though, is no ordinary back. At least not when he's fully healthy.

"Clinton Portis, regardless of what you may think of his injuries and stuff in the past, he's still one of the top running backs in the league," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He's arguably the best right now, between him and [Adrian Peterson]. He's=2 0definitely a dangerous threat."

Portis ranks fourth in the league with 278 touches behind Matt Forte, Peterson and Michael Turner.

"My whole body is sore," Portis said. "I'm getting old. It's rough out there."

The Ravens defense was humbled against the Giants when they allowed a season-high 207 rushing yards.

And middle linebacker Ray Lewis anticipates a stiff challenge from Portis.

"I just think he's one of those people that they want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible," Lewis said. "Maybe I'm a little biased. He's from ‘The U,' so he has a big heart. He plays the game the way the game should be played. He's probably one of the exceptional backs in the game right now."

TRAINING ROOM: Running back Willis McGahee (illness) and wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder) joined the list of players that didn't practice Thursday, which includes offensive tackle Jared Gaither (right shoulder sprain), Reed (hamstring) and cornerback Samari Rolle (hamstring).

Although Mason and McGahee attended the beginning of practice, they didn't participate in individual drills. Reed, Rolle and Gaither participated in individual drills on the sidelines.

Cornerback Fabian Washington (shoulder) returned to practice on a limited basis. Linebacker Bart Scott (shoulder) and rookie offensive guard David Hale (ankle) were limited again.

Linebacker Nick Greisen (back) and wide receiver Marcus Maxwell (hip) participated fully.

QUICK HITS: Besides Portis, Redskins defensive end Andre Carter (foot), linebacker London Fletcher (foot), offensive tackle Chris Samuels (knee), cornerback Shawn Springs (calf), linebacker Marcus Washington (ankle) and cornerback Fred Smoot (non-injury) didn't practice. ... Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (shoulder/abdomen) was upgraded to limited participation and offensive guard Pete Kendall (knee), guard Randy Thomas (neck) and linebacker Alfred Fincher (non-injury) participated fully. ... Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo now ranks second in Pro Bowl balloting for AFC special-teams ace, moving up from fourth. Lewis, Reed and fullback Le'Ron McClain have widened their leads at their positions. Suggs ranks fourth. ... Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham has missed three consecutive field goals beyond 26 yards.


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