Clinton Portis will be out at least one month with a groin injury, putting the two-time Pro Bowl running back's future in doubt once again.
His injury leaves the Washington Redskins with a very inexperienced backfield, too.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Wednesday that Portis has a third degree separation of the left groin, with the muscle separated off the bone. Portis will not require surgery, and Shanahan estimated a recovery time of four to six weeks.
"That's disappointing," Shanahan said, "that working so hard, playing so well, that he's got that setback."
Portis said Sunday that he felt a "pop" in his groin before leaving a 17-12 road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, when he already was starting to share more of the rushing load with Ryan Torain. Now the only two healthy tailbacks on the Redskins' roster are Torain and Chad Simpson, who have combined for 70 carries in their NFL careers entering this weekend's game against the Green Bay Packers.
"When you lose some players during the season, other guys have to step up," Shanahan said. "Ryan has got a little playing time, and we'll see what he can do."
Portis has run for just 195 yards on 49 carries this season.
Portis is 109 yards shy of 10,000 for his career and 680 away from breaking John Riggins' franchise rushing record. Both milestones seemed inevitable a year ago, but Portis missed the last eight games of last season after a suffering a severe concussion during a helmet-to-helmet hit.
The Redskins signed two rookie running backs Wednesday to provide depth: Keiland Williams, whom the team released Saturday to make room for wide receiver Brandon Banks, and Javarris James, released Tuesday from the New England Patriots' practice squad. James is the cousin of former NFL running back Edgerrin James.
Simpson, a third-year pro, signed with the Redskins on Sept. 22.
The Redskins brought in veterans Larry Johnson and Willie Parker to challenge Portis this season, but both were cut after he held them off for the starting job. Portis said he renewed his focus and dedication, something necessary for a well-worn 29-year-old back who would be expected to be in his declining years. But he's also in the final year of his contract and wouldn't appear to fit into the future of a team being remolded by Shanahan.
Shanahan now will do what he so often did when he was coach of the Denver Broncos: turn to a new face in the backfield to replace an established name. Backs were almost interchangeable for Shanahan's teams in Denver, from Terrell Davis to Reuben Droughns to Tatum Bell to Mike Anderson to Portis, because of a perennially solid offensive line.
Torain was drafted by Shanahan's Broncos in the fifth round in 2008, but the running back broke his left elbow in training camp, and he played in just two games before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Torain had another knee injury in training camp in 2009 and was released, saddled with the injury-prone label.
"Definitely got labeled that," Torain said. "I definitely felt like I had to get that bug off my shoulder and stay healthy. ... Luck wasn't on my side my rookie year."
Torain didn't make the Redskins' roster at the start of this season and was placed on the practice squad. He was promoted two weeks ago and has rushed for 116 yards on 25 carries in two games, including a 12-yard touchdown against the Eagles in which he bowled over safety Quintin Mikell on the way to the end zone. The play has become a league highlight this week.
"I watch it anytime I get an opportunity," Torain said.
"Ryan has the ability to be a top back," Shanahan said, "and we'll find out in time if he can do that and stay healthy."
Notes: The Redskins are changing punters. Josh Bidwell is still bothered by a hip injury, so Hunter Smith will be signed Thursday. Smith punted in 13 games for Washington last season. ... Rookie LT Trent Williams is confident he can return after missing two games with knee and toe injuries. He was limited in practice Wednesday. ... The Redskins signed released LB Mike Balogun from the practice squad.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.