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Conspiracy Theory: Believe What You See

Conspiracy Theory: Believe What You See

It didn’t quite seem to add up.

The members of the media were allowed to watch practice for the first 45 minutes on Thursday. It’s not unusual to see injured players out of the field riding a stationary bike (that’s not something that TO has a monopoly on; LaVar Arrington did it quite a bit the last couple of years) or, as Shawn Springs was on that day, standing out there in shorts and a jersey, playing catch, watching drills, doing what he could to stay engaged and involved even though it was unlikely that he would play.

It’s also not unusual for an injured player not to be out there, as was the case with Clinton Portis. Players often stay in the facility for treatment.

What is very unusual, however, is for a player to be inside the building for the beginning of a practice but a participant in the latter part of the session, the part that takes place after the press is booted out. But that was what happened with Portis on Thursday.

We came downstairs and went out to catch some of the players coming off the field to talk to them and to talk to Joe Gibbs. We expected to be able to talk to Portis but we were thought we would find him inside near the locker room. It was a mild day and all of those coming off the field were still wearing their shoulder pads. All except for Portis, that is, who approached the building dressed in sweats, no pads or helmet. It was only after we had talked to him for a few minutes that it was revealed that he had not only practiced but he had done so in pads. That particular bit of information was not revealed without prompting and the question almost went unasked because we had all assumed that he had just worked out, not practiced.

While this did have some of us curious, this feeling was dampened by what we heard Portis and Gibbs say. The story that was written and broadcast was on what we heard, that Portis was just 75%, and not on what we saw, that he had practiced in pads. Portis probably wouldn’t play on Monday night. A downgrade from questionable to doubtful or out seemed to be imminent.

In this space, I thought about writing about what I saw as opposed to what I heard, but I wasn’t all that convinced that Portis would play. It would have been a wishy-washy story and those usually aren’t very interesting. To pat myself on the back a bit, however, I did choose to take a wait and see stance on it, not amplifying the smokescreen or contradicting my earlier article and my gut feeling by writing that Portis was out.

Of course, most of the folks who wrote the “Portis is out” stories did not have the luxury of making that choice. They had to write something about it and the purpose here is not to fault their judgment in writing what they did. They went with the preponderance of the evidence even though there was some cause for reasonable doubt in plain view.

On Friday Portis again practiced and proclaimed that he was thinking along the lines of coming back in a week in Dallas. Again, the fact that he practiced was lost in the verbiage. Why the team would waste valuable practice time on reps for a guy who was virtually certain not to play was a question that went unasked.

The smokescreen continues, of course. We don’t know—and, more importantly, the Vikings don’t know—who will start and we don’t know how much Portis will play. But the “if” part of the smokescreen is over. Portis has been upgraded to probable and the Redskins would not risk the league scrutiny that would ensue in the wake of falsifying the official injury report. Barring a legitimate setback, Portis will play.

There are those out there who think that if Portis is not well enough to start that he should sit it out. The fact is that who starts is not relevant. What matters is how many carries Portis gets. I think he’ll get about 15 to 18 regardless of whether he starts or comes in off the bench.

Why not wait a week and have him come back against Dallas with a little more rest? First, you can’t go into any NFL game saying that you don’t need the services of one of your best players in order to beat that week’s opponent. Minnesota is a good, solid team that is very capable of springing what would be just a mild upset on Monday. Also, Portis had just a couple of weeks of training camp and he hasn’t played facing live contact save for those few plays almost a month ago. It is unlikely that he will carry a heavy load in his first game back regardless of whether it’s this week or next. He’ll need this game to get back into game shape if he’s going to return to his customary role of carrying the load against Dallas.

It appears that this was the plan all along. That’s my conspiracy theory and I’m sticking to it.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when the moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrence Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins draft oft-injured Auburn CB Joshua Holsey with their final pick

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Redskins draft oft-injured Auburn CB Joshua Holsey with their final pick

The Redskins haven't shied away from using draft picks on players with an injury history, and that trend continued all the way to their final pick of the draft with Auburn CB Joshua Holsey.

Holsey missed parts of the 2013 and 2015 seasons at Auburn due to torn ACLs, but rebounded with a strong season in 2016. He had 30 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended in his senior season.

RELATED: REDSKINS ROLL THE DICE ON 7TH ROUND SAFETY

He was overlooked through most of the draft process due to his injury history and was snubbed at the combine. 

The seventh round is a spot to take a flier on a guy who has some traits you like, and this certainly fits the bill with the pick of Joshua Holsey. 

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