Injured in the preseason and struggling with what the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora charitably describes as “a complimentary role” in Al Saunders’ offense, Redskins RB Clinton Portis is battered, bruised and fed up.

“If I’m at the bottom of the pile and my ankle’s back here and my leg’s twisted and somebody else dives on my head just from being a [jerk], it’s tough when you got that going on,” Portis said. “You’re trying to protect [preexisting injuries] and make sure somebody don’t grab your ankle, and they shoot at your knees, you know what I’m saying?

“It’s just protecting yourself and coming out healthy after Sunday and still finding a way to walk and get out there and come to practice. And one day I’m going to heal up eventually, and it’s going to be on.”

Portis is on pace for a career-low 1,067 yards, and is averaging just 4.1 yards and 17 carries per game. He has just one 100-yard game — he had nine in 2005, including five in row to close the regular season — and ranks 23rd in the NFL in rushing with 498 rushing yards. It’s as if all his worst fears in those maddening hours after being carted off the field in the preseason opener at Cincinnati have come true, with opponents targeting his vulnerabilities and his body often unable to withstand the blows.

Portis knows some of this was inevitable. He takes on much bulkier foes every week, blocking with abandon and exuding an aggressive streak (he hurt his shoulder making a punishing tackle on an interception return). His workload alone was foreboding: after averaging 282 carries a year his first two seasons in Denver, Portis ran a total of 695 times in 2004 and 2005 with Washington, the third-heaviest workload for a back in the NFL in that span.

“Society don’t look at it like that,” Portis said. “Everybody else says, ‘He’s just not the same back.’ They don’t look at the wear and tear over the last two years when I’ve been asked to carry the load I’ve been asked to carry, even when I don’t have the ball. Those be the most physical times in blocking, so I just throw my body around. I’m going to throw it around as long as I can, and when I can’t throw it around no more, you’ll know.”

Portis gained 25 yards in the first quarter against Philly today, with the Eagles leading, 10-0. Donovan McNabb and Donte Stallworth hooked up for an 84 yard TD pass on the Eagles’ 2nd possession.

(UPDATE : busted right hand for Portis, and a big day for Brian Westbrook)
The New York Post’s Mike Vacarro, surveying the Terrell Owens-related chaos in Dallas, wonders how Bill Parcells manages to indulge the wide receiver and comes to a startling conclusion : The Tuna’s Brain Is Missing.

You can say anything you want about Bobby Knight, who’s boorish public face has become almost a cartoonish caricature now, but you have to give the man this. To the bitter end, he’s done it all his way, even when his way was the wrong way. As as a college coach, he’s never had to inflict himself with the sorry likes of Terrell Owens, but that was always the great thing about Bill Parcells. Even in a pro culture where the players are supposed to set the rules, they always subjugated themselves to him, to his will, to his rules. Always. Giants. Patriots. Jets. Always.

Until now. Until T.O.

Ponder for a second the destructive tornado that T.O. has been throughout his career, the blight he’s been on three proud franchises, the scourge he’s been in San Francisco and Philadelphia and now in Dallas. The Niners grew weary of the nonsense. Andy Reid chose a playoff-free existence rather than indulge him. Yet now, here is the toughest tough guy, doing nothing, letting T.O. ramble free, unchecked, unpunished, unaffected.

Maybe Parcells shouldn’t pull a Neil Reed on T.O.’s throat. But would anyone really complain if he did? At least we’d know that really was Parcells coaching the Cowboys, and not some Stepford Coach.