For Redskins' Portis, 'It's Only a Matter of Time'

Clinton Portis has rushed for 183 yards, at 3.9 yards per carry. His average through three games last season was 3.8, before five straight 100-yard games.
Clinton Portis has rushed for 183 yards, at 3.9 yards per carry. His average through three games last season was 3.8, before five straight 100-yard games. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009

The buzzwords around the Washington Redskins' locker room were familiar for a struggling team that's desperate to align its level of success with its level of talent. While most players suggested it's a matter of execution, a matter of accountability or a matter of consistency, the star running back is not caught up in the hysteria or sense of urgency that surrounds Redskins Park this week.

For Clinton Portis, it's a matter of time.

"It's only a matter of time before I have a 200-yard game," Portis said. "It's only a matter of time before I have a 150-yard game. It's only a matter of time before I get two or three touchdowns. It's just the fact, when's it coming? I know it's coming. But when?"

With an ineffective rushing attack through three games, the Redskins began installing their game plan for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday, taking the practice field without their starting backfield. Nursing a calf contusion, Portis was present but wasn't wearing pads and wasn't participating. Fullback Mike Sellers sat out with bruised quadriceps.

Portis said he thought he'd be ready to play on Sunday against the Bucs, though he did reveal that he played through ankle pain the first two weeks of the season.

"I couldn't really sit in position to pass block," he said on Wednesday. "I think right now, as far as my ankles, I can run around, I can stop, I can cut. The treatment I've been getting -- the new program that we've been on -- is working great. Right now, my ankles don't have any pain."

Portis was limited in practice last week, too, and was listed as questionable entering the Lions' game. Though he started in Detroit, he did not play late in the game after getting kicked in the calf. Zorn wasn't certain on Wednesday just how much Portis might be able to practice in the days leading up to the Bucs game, but the eighth-year running back doesn't seem to think it matters.

"It's not a concern for me. I know how to go out and play without practicing. It might be an issue for you all," Portis told reporters, shortly after receiving treatment on Wednesday. "I can go out and play. I think I'm in shape. You watch me play in the game on Sunday, I think I picked up my assignment, I know my assignment. I know what I'm supposed to do, and I try to get it done."

In the first three games of the season, Portis has run for 62, 79 and 42 yards. He's yet to score a touchdown and hasn't had 20 carries in a single game. His 12 touches Sunday were the fewest of the season.

But this Sunday could be the breakout game Portis and the Redskins need. Washington is averaging 91.7 rushing yards per game; Tampa Bay is allowing more than twice that. In fact, only one team in the NFL, Houston, has been worse than the Bucs against the run thus far. Last week against the Giants, Tampa Bay's defense allowed 226 rushing yards. Ahmad Bradshaw had 104 yards and Brandon Jacobs finished with 92. After the Cowboys ran for 118 yards in the season-opener against the Bucs, the Bills totaled 218 yards on the ground in Week 2, including 163 yards from Fred Jackson.

For Portis to match that kind of success, the Redskins will have to involve him more in the game plan. Despite evidence to the contrary, in this early phase of the season, players and coaches still preach the run around Redskins Park.

"We feel we're a run team," said Sellers. "But it doesn't matter what we feel. We've got to run the plays that are called."

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