Notebook: Run Defense, QB, Kicks

The Vikings might not see a lot of Clinton Portis Monday night, but they know all about Ladell Betts. And Minnesota is uncertain of itself at other positions heading into their season opener.

The Vikings publicly refuse to show any satisfaction that Clinton Portis might not be at 100 percent Monday night. Maybe that's because of what happened last time the Vikings played the Redskins.

In the 2004 season finale (yeah, the same game where Randy Moss left the sidelines before the game was over) Ladell Betts rushed for 118 yards on 26 carries in the Redskins' upset win over Minnesota. Betts will start in place of the ailing Portis Monday night.

"What I did back then doesn't buy me anything for this year," Betts said. "They have a completely different team. It's just another opportunity for me to start and what better way then to do it in the first game on Monday night. It's the biggest show in town."

But Betts doesn't expect to take over Portis' starting job for long. "I don't think anyone's going to replace Clinton," Betts said. "I'm just trying to do my job."

Betts has played a limited role in his first four seasons with the Redskins. He has played in 48 games over the four seasons, but started just twice. He has rushed for 1,271 yards in his career (a 4.0-yard average) and five touchdowns.

"We have a lot of confidence in Ladell Betts," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "He's been in this role really for two years, and when we've asked him to respond, we like him a lot. So I don't think we'll be changing things or that it will be causing us to do something that would be a change in philosophy."


It's a situation the Vikings hope to avoid dealing with on-the-field, but the back-up quarterback situation appears to be still up in the air. Tarvaris Jackson had the advantage on the No. 2 spot throughout most of training camp, but when the Vikings recently traded for Brooks Bollinger then signed him to a contract extension, it still is uncertain who will be Brad Johnson's back-up Monday night.

Don't count on head coach Brad Childress to clarify the situation. "I'm not going to give anyone a competitive advantage, nor am I going to show my hand," Childress said.

Bollinger said he won't let distractions – off the field with moving to a new home, or on the field competing with Jackson for the No. 2 spot – get to him. "You don't really have time to deal with any of that right now," Bollinger said of getting settled in Minnesota. "Now, it's just a matter of taking care of the football stuff."


As uncertain as the backup quarterback position is the Vikings' kick return game. Receiver Troy Williamson, running back Mewelde Moore, and cornerback Ronyell Whitaker are all in the running for the return jobs and filling the shoes of Pro Bowl returner Koren Robinson, whose off-field conduct last month led to his release.

The Vikings coaching staff says it will make a decision as late as Monday – hours before the game – regarding who will be returning kicks.

"We don't really even know what that's going to be yet," special teams coach Paul Ferraro said. "We're still evaluating that as we go."

Earlier in the preseason it appeared the Vikings had a couple of potential solid kick returners – receiver Jason carter and running back Wendell Mathis. But both were cut a week ago when the team made its final major roster cuts and re-signed to the practice squad.

"I don't think it was particularly focused on the kick returner situation," Childress said. "It's just what's best for our football team and keeping some other good football players at different positions. You'd like to keep everybody, but the numbers mandate that somebody has to go on the practice squad. Those guys had good training camps, but again, we need to keep our team strong in some other positions as well."

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