Portis's Latest Role: Adulthood

The Washington Post's Jason Reid discusses the details of the team's first day of training camp.Video by Jason Reid/The Washington PostPhotos by John McDonnell/The Washington Post & AP
By Mike Wise
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Upstairs in Ashburn, the pageantry for the well-coiffed man in the suit was about to begin. Downstairs, away from the Jason Taylor Show, beneath the steps that lead to the weight room and out to the practice field, Clinton Portis slung a green terry-cloth towel over his sweaty head.

He understands the void Joe Gibbs, the franchise's most recognizable mug, has left. What if Taylor morphs into that guy, taking the spotlight away from the player who leads with his shoulder and, occasionally, his mouth?

"That don't bother me at all," Portis said, shrugging. "Jason Taylor is someone who is going to come in and help the Redskins out tremendously. I would love for him to come here and be the star power. I don't care about the star power.

"I want wins in the playoffs, that's what I care about. I want to get a ring put on my hand. I want to hold up a trophy with my teammates and say, 'We did it.' That's what I care about. If Jason Taylor can bring me that, yes, Jason Taylor is my favorite player. Let him be the face of the organization."

At 26, four years after his first Washington training camp, lessons have been consumed and digested. Gibbs's bumpin'-helmet offense, for instance, painfully showed Portis his body isn't indestructible.

Sean Taylor's death made him take personal and spiritual stock of his life. Portis also found out that the extrovert in him -- the locker room prankster whose alter egos change costumes and moods -- is okay coexisting with Portis the adult.

Especially since Sheriff Gonna Getcha now has a little deputy who needs Pampers.

"It's exciting to be a father, to have that luxury," Portis said of his infant son, born this offseason. "You never think a child will change you or you can get that much appreciation out of a child. But you look over and see a baby smiling, waking up in the middle of the night, you have to get up and change diapers and all that, it makes you appreciate being a father so much more.

"It makes you understand what your parents went through or the people who kept you went through, how many requirements it takes to maintain a child and let you know it's really not about you anymore. You have a mouth to feed now."

Portis declined to release the baby boy's name or the mother's name, citing privacy concerns. "Just put I enjoy being a father, you don't have to put nothing about the child's name out there. Then people are going to be searching for the child's name all of a sudden."

Thoughts of Taylor still tumble through his head daily, Portis said. He can't get away from the memory of his slain teammate; Portis's locker here in Ashburn still sits next to No. 21's encased cubicle. He doesn't mind, he said.

"You goin' always think about Sean," Portis said. "And now being a father, you realize what changed him. You realized what he saw, how his passion all of a sudden became lovable, it became enjoyable, it became a delight to go home and check on his child."

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