WASHINGTON (AP) – Running back Ladell Betts signed a five-year, $11 million contract extension with the Washington Redskins on Friday, opting to remain in Clinton Portis’ shadow rather than test free agency after a career-best season.

Betts, getting a regular chance to start while Portis is on injured reserve, has rushed for 100 yards in back-to-back games for the first time, including a career-high 155 last week in a loss to Atlanta.

The fifth-year back also has set season career-highs in rushing attempts (141) and yards (643). He also has 40 receptions, one behind team leader Santana Moss.

“They were the first team to give me the opportunity to play in the NFL, so I’m loyal to that,” said Betts, a 2002 second-round draft pick from Iowa. “I’ve had nothing but a good experience so far since I’ve been here.”

Betts’ contract was due to expire at the end of the season, and his increased production presented him with the dilemma of whether to re-sign or become a free agent with a chance at starting for another team.

But coach Joe Gibbs said Betts will continue to have an important role on the team, even if Portis, who is out for the season with hand and shoulder injuries, returns healthy next year.

“Ladell, since I’ve been here, everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done,” Gibbs said. “He and Clinton have been an excellent tandem back there. We feel like he’s a Redskin, he’s our kind of guy. It’s something we don’t have to worry about going into the offseason.”

Betts has spent most of his career as a role-player, returning kickoffs or subbing for the starting running back. Until this year, he never had more than 371 yards rushing in a season. His power-running style offers a distinct contrast to Portis’ flashy, open-field moves.

“Hopefully, we’ll have one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL,” Betts said. “We’re here for the long haul, and we’re trying to get this thing turned around, so hopefully me and Clinton together can take care of the backfield.”

AP-ES-12-08-06 1744EST

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