Portis Is Healthy, Confident, Upbeat

"I think I can handle any workload that's given to me," said running back Clinton Portis, who rested much of the preseason. (By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007

Clinton Portis has a message for the NFL. Often injured the past year, he says he is back and healthy for a regular season game for the first time since 2005 -- when he set the franchise rushing record.

"Sunday, September 9; Sunday, September 9," he said yesterday at Redskins Park. "FedEx Field, 1 o'clock. Washington Redskins. Miami Dolphins. Clinton Portis will be there."

Perhaps no Redskin stirs such disparate passion among fans, with Portis revered by many for his toughness, explosiveness and outsize personality, but criticized for his flamboyant and provocative nature.

Portis's disdain for preseason games and training in general has privately rankled some teammates, who think he has been coddled by Coach Joe Gibbs during four years here. But all factions agree on one thing: As long as Portis racks up the 100-yard games, everything else will be forgiven.

As much as Portis, 26, basks in the limelight, he is aware of how fleeting the attention can be. The career arc for a top running back is particularly short and Portis was a workhorse his first two seasons here. In 2004-2005, only two NFL running backs had more carries than Portis (Shaun Alexander and Rudi Johnson), and last year injuries meant Portis never really was himself on the field.

Now, not even two offseason surgeries (hand and shoulder) and a bout of knee tendinitis that began in May and returned the first week of camp -- keeping him out of practice from July 30 until last week -- will deter him now ("I've got no limitations, I feel fine," Portis said).

Gibbs has been unequivocal about Portis starting Sunday, even with backup Ladell Betts coming off a 1,000-yard season. Although Betts stands to figure prominently, Portis said he could handle his usual workload of 20 to 25 carries.

"I think I can handle any workload that's given to me," Portis said. "Whatever is given to me, that's what I can handle. I'm not going to pout and ask for more, and I'm not going to complain and say I need less. When they call my number I'll respond."

Portis said he plans to head to the sideline as often as necessary and has no problem sharing the backfield with Betts. "Me and Ladell are going to coexist," Portis said. "We're going to have fun."

The medical staff advised prolonged rest for the tendinitis and Gibbs has been pleased by the early results. "I don't think we had any flare-ups or anything, so hopefully we made the right decision and got that thing healed up," Gibbs said.

His teammates offer varying opinions on what is a reasonable expectation for Portis, given the length of his absence.

"Everybody is second-guessing him because of his injury; I don't second-guess him none at all," fullback Mike Sellers said. "He doesn't have to practice at all in the preseason and it doesn't matter to me because I know he knows what he has to do, so I know its going to be like 'I told you so' after the game."

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