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Portis, Betts: Call Them 'Partners'

Running back controversy?

With the emergence of Ladell Betts in recent weeks, there has been some speculation among media that it could lead to debate over whether Betts to Clinton Portis will be the featured back of the Redskins' offense in 2007.

After Betts signed his contract extension on Dec. 8, head coach Joe Gibbs stated that he expects Portis and Betts to share the workload next season.

Given Betts' standout performance in recent weeks, Gibbs was asked again on Monday if he expected a larger role for Betts.

"We feel great about those two guys carrying the ball for us," he said. "They've been good partners in the past. Clinton leads off and then Ladell has been a big part of our offense. What he has done this year has been great for him and great for us.

"[Betts' performance] certainly reflects on everything for us next year. Clinton is a guy who has rushed for a ton of yards for us. Ladell has a huge role for us. There's certainly room for having two good running backs."

Meantime, Betts was asked if it would be tough to accept a lesser role in the offense next season.

He replied: "From a competitive standpoint, it would be, a little bit. But at the same time, I'm a team guy and I understand what my role is. And I think I'll have a little bit more of a role next season. Maybe we could have a two-headed monster. Who knows? We'll see. I'll worry about that when it comes."

The shared workload will help both running backs stay fresh during games and through the course of the season, Betts added.

"It's a good feeling knowing that when you're in there, you can go 100 percent and not worry about having to save energy for the next play," he said. "If you know another guy can step in, it makes your job easier."

Since the Redskins acquired Portis in March 2004 to serve as the team's franchise back. He followed suit with two consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. This year, Portis struggled through shoulder and hand injuries. He was placed on injured reserve in November.

Portis finished the season rushing for 523 yards on 127 carries, a solid 4.1 yards-per-carry average. He leads the Redskins in touchdowns with seven.

Betts took over for Portis and after a tough game against Tampa Bay in Week 11, he has been on a roll.

Betts has rushed for 100-plus yards in the last four games, totaling 549 yards in that span. He is on the verge of his first 1,000-yard rushing season.

Against New Orleans, Betts was particularly effective running up the middle, behind guards Randy Thomas and Derrick Dockery and center Casey Rabach. He has stayed patient at the line of scrimmage, waiting for holes to develop before charging through full-go.

"The downhill runs are what Ladell gets excited about," Gibbs said. "If you saw Ladell and his running style, you'd say that he'd be a real good outside runner because he has real speed and quickness. Just like Clinton, he prefers inside running. I think we're fortunate to have two backs that prefer inside running."

If Betts breaks the century make again this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, he would tie a franchise record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Rob Goode set the team record in 1951 with five, and Portis tied the mark last season.

There's a good chance that Betts will accomplish the feat. The Rams enter the game with the NFL's 31st-ranked run defense. They allow an average of 147.8 rushing yards per game.

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