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As Portis Heals, Betts Takes the Reins

The most prolific performance in Ladell Betts' NFL career came against this year's season-opening opponent, the Minnesota Vikings.

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With Clinton Portis nursing an injury in the season finale of 2004, Betts got his only start of the year and took full advantage.

He set personal bests in carries (26) and rushing yards (118) and scored the third touchdown of his career in 21-18 Redskins victory.

Betts would like nothing better than to be a key contributor versus Minnesota once again--when the Vikings come to FedExField for the Sept. 11 opener.

Owing to the shoulder injury suffered by Portis in last Sunday's preseason opener at Cincinnati, Betts may be pushed to the forefront as the Redskins' feature back come Sept. 11.

Betts did not play versus the Bengals due a nagging hamstring injury. But he returned to the practice field this week and should be ready for Saturday night's game versus the New York Jets at FedExField.

On Wednesday, Betts said of his role for Saturday night's game: "My role is to be the starter, so whatever the coaches ask me to do, I'll do. Basically, I have to carry the ball the majority of the time and step up."

He continued: "I'm just out here trying to get the plays down. Basically, I want to come out with the game plan perfectly understood."

Betts said his hamstring is feeling better and that he always approaches games as if he's the starter. That's the only way for him to prepare.

As the Redskins' No. 2 running back, Betts is not simply an insurance plan. He's a solid player in his own right.

Betts has impressed head coach Joe Gibbs and his staff for two seasons with his unselfish attitude.

"Ladell is very important to us and he has been for the last two years," Betts said. "He has run back kicks for us. He has done almost everything we have asked. He's an excellent receiver.

"Let me put it this way: I'm glad we have Ladell Betts. We do need depth at running back for sure and if Clinton, for whatever reason, can't go, then we'll turn it over to Ladell."

Betts wasted no time making an impression on new Redskins associate head coach-offense Al Saunders.

Said Saunders: "He's an outstanding football player. I don't know that people realize what a quality player he is. He's a three-dimensional player."

Certainly, it remains to be seen just what Saunders will do with the Redskins' offense but it sounds like Saunders has high hopes for Betts to be a part of it in some way.

"Everybody wants to be 'the guy,' but I understand that Clinton [Portis] is No. 1," Betts said last season. "At the same time, I prepare myself like I'm No. 1."

Continued Betts: "I'm always one play away from being a starter. The coaches trust me to step in and make plays when my number is called. I take great pride in that."

Betts' skills were evident in the Redskins' Week 11 narrow 36-35 loss at Tampa Bay in 2005.

In the back-and-forth tussle, Betts caught three passes for 19 yards, including a touchdown. Most impressively, he returned a kickoff 94 yards for another touchdown.

The second-round 2002 draft pick (the 56th overall selection) out of Iowa played high school ball in Blue Springs, Missouri. He was a high school teammate of new Redskins wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

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