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Red Socks Can't Keep Portis Going

He Again Violates NFL Policy

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2004; Page D14

Clinton Portis's red socks were conspicuous as the diminutive tailback used his shifty moves against the Philadelphia Eagles last night at FedEx Field. Portis violated the NFL's uniform policy once again despite being fined $5,000 last week for not wearing the standard white socks last week against the New York Giants.

Portis started the game with a flourish, but the 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back slowed down as the game progressed as Washington turned to its passing game. And Portis could only be satisfied with his sartorial flair as the Redskins lost, 17-14, to end all but the most far-fetched fantasies about the playoffs.

Clinton Portis scores from five yards out to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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"A moral victory doesn't mean anything," said Portis, who scored both of Washington's touchdowns last night. "We know we had them on the ropes -- one of the best teams in football. A moral victory doesn't mean anything. We have San Fran this week. We have to find a way to go and beat them."

The best barometer of Washington's success this season isn't based on a fashion statement, it's based on a statistic: When Portis gains at least 100 yards, the Redskins are victorious. The Redskins have lost each time Portis has failed to reach the mark, and unfortunately for Portis, the streak is still intact. Last night, Portis finished with 80 yards on 23 attempts despite gaining 45 yards in the first quarter. He had 63 yards by halftime, when the game was tied at 7.

"I'm glad we got him. I'll pay for his fine if he wants," said left guard Derrick Dockery. "He's a little man who's going to fight. He's doesn't mind getting grimy. He just hustles, gets in your face, he takes on linebackers and defensive lineman downfield. He's a playmaker."

The Redskins got a scare early in the fourth quarter when Portis appeared to hurt his knee after making a 15-yard reception. Philadelphia middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter pulled Portis's face mask on the play. Portis sat out for one play -- the Redskins were called for a false start -- before returning after being tended to by trainers. On first and 15 from the Philadelphia 26-yard line, Portis threw a halfback option pass that fell well short of the intended target, wideout Rod Gardner in the end zone. Portis has helped the Redskins win one game with a similar play that resulted in a touchdown to Laveranues Coles.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey completed a 24-yard pass to H-back Chris Cooley on the next play, bringing the ball to the Eagles 2-yard line. On first and goal from the 2, Portis put his head down and bulled ahead behind blocks by tackle Chris Samuels and tight end Mike Sellers. Amid the burly bodies, Portis emerged across the goal line on his back. It was his second rushing touchdown of the game, doubling his total for the season, and it cut Philadelphia's lead to 17-14, with John Hall's point-after.

Against the Giants last week, Portis gained 148 yards on 31 carries in Washington's best offensive showing of the season. Portis wore the red socks for the first time in that game. Afterward, Portis said that he expected to get fined but expressed no regrets. "The white socks have been killing us, man," he said. "I had to go out and change my outfit. If you're not looking sweet, you really can't play too sweet."

Portis can afford the fine after signing a seven-year, $50.5 million contract, including a $17 million bonus, with the Redskins during the offseason.

Portis is among the NFL leaders in yards from scrimmage, and entered the game with the seventh-best rushing total (1,093) in the NFL. Nonetheless, Portis has had an up-and-down season as the best weapon in Washington's struggling offense.

Last night Ladell Betts opened the game by returning the opening kick 70 yards. A face-mask penalty by the Eagles on Betts's return brought the ball to the Washington 7-yard line for a first and goal. In that situation, Portis didn't have to wear red socks for the Eagles to keep their eyes on him. On Washington's first offensive drive, Portis dashed left for two yards before being halted by a swarm of Eagles led by defensive tackle Hollis Thomas.

But on Washington's next play, Portis galloped left into the end zone untouched after left tackle Samuels sealed off two Eagles defenders.

"It's always tough to lose," Portis said. "We had them in position. We went out and played a great game. We probably had one offensive turnover that ended up killing us at the end of the game. The team fought . . . the offensive line went out and played. Nobody backed down."

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