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Ducket to Join Running Back Rotation

When T.J. Duckett came over from Atlanta, he brought with him high hopes and expectations. As things have worked out, though, Duckett hasn't seen much playing time with the Redskins.




That is likely to change this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, where the Redskins take on the Buccaneers, a team with which they are very familiar.

The two teams split a pair of games in the same stadium last year, with the Redskins emerging with the 17-10 win in the postseason.

Insofar as Duckett is concerned, he may see his first extensive playing time of the year. Ladell Betts is expected to draw the start at running back, with Clinton Portis having been placed on the injured reserve list due to a broken hand and a shoulder injury in need of repair.

Head coach Joe Gibbs said Wednesday it's likely to be a situation for Duckett to step up and show what he can do in the Redskins' offense.

"Last week we had T.J. available for all of the short yardage plays and goal line, and he'll continue to do that," Gibbs said. "Now he'll be in rotation with Ladell [Betts].

"The big thing with running backs, I've always thought, is to keep them fresh. Just like with Clinton, if Ladell wants to come out and take a breather, we let him do it."

Speaking specifically of Duckett, Gibbs added: "Obviously, he's [nearly] 260 pounds, so he should be a good pass protector and he has excellent hands as a pass receiver."

"We'll have to see how that combination [with Betts] looks. We'll miss Clinton, but it's an opportunity for T.J. to step up and really do something for us. Ladell has a starting role, which is a big deal for him."

During his five seasons with the Falcons in the NFC South, Duckett regularly faced Tampa Bay. So he is well aware of how hard-hitting they are, with the likes of Simeon Rice, Greg Spires, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber.

Asked about going up against the 2-7 Bucs on Sunday, Duckett said: "They're playing hard. They're giving up some plays here and there, but they have Pro Bowlers and vets to pick up the slack."

Duckett, who joined the Redskins Aug. 23 following a three-tea, trade involving Atlanta and Denver, says he sees this weekend's game as an opportunity.

The 6-0, 254-pound running back said: "You just prepare as always. Now that I'm up, my preparation isn't going to change. I'll just keep on running and getting downhill."

In three games with his new team, Duckett, a first-round pick (18th overall) of the Falcons out of Michigan State in 2002, has just seven carries and 40 yards.

He showed flashes of his talent last week at Philadelphia in a game the Redskins dropped 27-3. He had a 12-yard run on his first carry, then converted a 3rd-and-1 by picking up four yards.

"No question we're excited to see what he can do in short yardage situations," running backs coach Earnest Byner said. "You saw him convert the 3rd-and-1 against Philly, and for him to take control of that situation the way he did was important. T.J. is prepared for this opportunity and we're excited about his potential."

Asked if it has been frustrating not knowing how much--or even if--he's going to play, Duckett responded: "It gets frustrating, and I get a little bit antsy. But [complaining] doesn't help any situation. All I can do is just keep working hard and keep preparing and keep learning the game.

"My situation, which is more vivid now, is like this: It's time to play."

In his first four seasons in the league, Duckett totaled 31 touchdowns. His career high, in terms of carries in a game, came versus Tampa Bay back in 2003. Duckett had 27 carries and 93 yards in a 30-28 Atlanta win on Week 16.

On Sunday, you can look for No. 36 in the Redskins' backfield on a more frequent basis. At this point in the season, that's all T.J. Duckett can ask for.

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