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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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Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan spoke to CBS Sports' Pete Prisco about the loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl and how the Falcons will rebound in 2017. 

In the process, he took a shot at former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play-calling and put some of the blame on his style of coaching for the disastrous fourth quarter.

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan said. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

Those are some harsh words from Ryan and not exactly a ringing endorsement of Kyle Shanahan. This loss will surely haunt him should he never get back to another Super Bowl.

"There's always going to be a little sting," Ryan said. "You never lose that. Hopefully we've got four Super Bowl victories after this one, but that doesn't mean we won't still be like, 'Damn, let's talk about the other one we should've had."

Redskins fans may be able to relate to Matt Ryan's pain as some were vocal about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling during his time in Washington. Maybe Kirk Cousins takes notice of Ryan's comments as well before he considers San Francisco next off-season.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS STATEMENT WAS A MISTAKE, BUT WON'T HAVE IMPACT ON THE FIELD

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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