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No gamble with Betts
Ledell Betts becomes Redskins starting running back for remainder of season

 Redskins linemen say they like blocking for Ladell Betts, who's known for going through--or over--defenders for the last yards.
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Date published: 11/16/2006


ASHBURN--For the professional football player who starts his career as a reserve, everything usually seems backward.

Most often, the player was the star of his high school team and the leader of his college squad. Then he gets to the NFL and spends more time on the bench than on the field.

This is about how it went for Redskins running back Ladell Betts.

After shattering rushing records at Blue Springs (Mo.) High School and then doing the same at the University of Iowa, Betts was selected by the Redskins in the second round of the 2002 draft. He went from big cheese to second banana.

As a rookie in 2002, he backed up Stephen Davis. In 2003, he spelled Trung Canidate, who is no longer in the NFL. And when the Redskins traded for Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis the following year, Betts knew that he would continue to be a reserve for a while longer.

But yesterday the Redskins (3-6) placed Portis on injured reserve because of a broken bone in his hand and a left shoulder that still has not recovered from a preseason injury. And just like that, Ladell Betts earned a half-season as a starting running back.

"Coming off the bench is a humbling experience, but at the same time I had to stay hungry knowing my chance may come, even though you don't know when that chance may be," Betts said yesterday. "I can honestly say I've been preparing myself for this situation, so I'm ready."

In limited action, Betts has been one of the few bright spots for Washington's offense this season. Playing mostly on third downs, he has amassed 366 yards and a touchdown on 80 carries and he has 30 catches for 231 yards. Betts is 5 yards shy of setting his career-high for rushing yards and has already doubled his previous high for receptions in a season. What's more, Betts is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, compared to 4.1 for Portis.

"Everyone on the offensive line really likes his style," Redskins center Casey Rabach said of Betts. "He's not afraid to run people over, and he makes plays to the edge."

Added guard Randy Thomas: "He doesn't complain; he just goes out and does the dirty work. I'm pretty psyched for Ladell."

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