Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said Monday he was hopeful injured running back Clinton Portis would be ready for the season opener next month.
An MRI exam on Monday discovered that Portis suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder in the first quarter of Sunday night's preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It will be something that will be sore," Gibbs told reporters. "As soon as we get the soreness out of there, we feel he can start rehabbing. We would hope he will be ready for the opener."
The loss of Portis for any length of time would be a devastating blow for the Redskins, a team much-improved over last year's 10-6 squad that advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Portis injured the shoulder while tackling Keiwan Ratliff, a Bengals cornerback who had intercepted a pass by Redskins starter Mark Brunell and raced 52 yards down the sideline.
The fifth-year running back, a 2003 Pro Bowl performer who has rushed for at least 1,300 yards in each of his NFL seasons, landed on his left shoulder while slamming Ratliff to the ground.
Gibbs defended his decision to use Portis in the team's first exhibition game, a 19-3 victory by the host Bengals.
"The pre-season games are the first time you can have real contact," Gibbs said. "You put your starters out there, there are 22 guys, and everyone knows that every one of them is super important to the team, certainly including Clinton."
"As part of the coaching staff, you put them out there, love to get them eight or 10 plays, and in Clinton's case, one or two carries," he said. "You always run a risk. It's something we hold our breath on. No one wants to put someone at risk, unless it's something that's super important to the team."
Washington has three more preseason games before their regular season opens on Sept. 11 at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
Gibbs said Portis, the team's leading rusher last year with 1,516 yards, would work hard to be in the starting line-up for the nationally televised game.
"I know he wants to play, so we have an extremely tough guy there," the coach said. "Last year I can't tell you how many times he got hit where I said, `He's going to have to come out for a while' and he never does. We'll just hope and pray for the best."