Redskins' Clinton Portis expects to be part of offseason change

Clinton Portis, top, accepts the possibility the Redskins will let him go.
Clinton Portis, top, accepts the possibility the Redskins will let him go. "If it happened, it happened, and I can understand that." (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clinton Portis wore a burgundy Santa hat adorned with a Washington Redskins logo and emblazoned with the word "Redskins" across the furry front. And in that environment, at a charity function sponsored by the team that has employed him for six years, the Pro Bowl running back discussed what has been on his mind since he suffered a concussion more than a month ago: That his time in Washington may be over.

"I can't sit and tell you I want my career to be over here, but at the same time, you got to understand the business side of things," Portis said in a nearly 10-minute interview with a small group of reporters Tuesday at FedEx Field. "I've been here for six years, and we went to the playoffs twice. I think Mr. [Daniel] Snyder [the team's owner], with the pressure that's on him with the organization, [is] probably going to have to make changes. For everything that [goes] on, I'm to blame, so why wouldn't I be the change?"

Portis, who ranks second behind John Riggins on the franchise's all-time rushing list, was reflective about his current abilities and his legacy during the interview, which came during an appearance at the Redskins' giveaway to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps's "Toys for Tots" program. He said he does not believe the concussion he suffered Nov. 8 in Atlanta that ended his season will also end his career. "I don't think for one second it's going to be career-ending," he said.

But given the Redskins' disappointing 4-9 season and the fact that the team has won just one playoff game since he arrived in a 2004 trade with Denver, Portis said he would understand if he became part of sweeping changes to the roster.

"I would love to be here," Portis said. "I'm grateful of everything this organization [has] done for me. At the same time, it's just understanding the business side of things. I could be selfish and say: 'Oh, man, look at my production. Look at what I've done.' But we don't have anything to show for my production. So if it happened, it happened, and I can understand that."

Portis had not spoken with reporters since suffering the injury, limiting his public comments to his weekly appearances on "The John Thompson Show" on ESPN 980. He gained 494 yards on 124 carries with one touchdown in eight games before being injured. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve last week, meaning 2009 is the least productive of his eight years in the NFL. Some Redskins personnel believe Portis, who has 2,176 career carries -- including four seasons with at least 325 attempts -- will never return to an elite level.

Portis, though, believes otherwise. "As long as I'm healthy, man, I'm not worried about playing anywhere in the NFL," he said. "I feel like I am going to compete and will compete at a high level anywhere I am." He also defended his reputation, which he believes has taken a hit over the past several seasons, when his practice habits -- he frequently takes time off during the week to rest various ailments -- have come under scrutiny.

"I think the way I [have] been portrayed was like I was selfish," Portis said. "I [have] never been selfish. I don't think there's nobody around that can say I'm selfish. I think I went out and gave everything I had on Sunday.

"Through the week -- which became a problem, me not practicing through the week -- I'm not going to sit and torture myself through a week. If I can't do it, I can't do it. I know how I feel, and I always know how I feel. I feel like if I'm capable of going out and playing on Sunday and giving you everything I got, then that's perfect. I don't think running plays change. I don't think blocking schemes change. I think it's all instinct. I don't think I've lost instinct."

Portis has a base salary of about $7.2 million in 2010, $6.4 million of which is guaranteed. He has roster and workout bonuses of a little more than $500,000. Because he is under contract, Portis acknowledged that steering his future is not up to him. He said the future of Coach Jim Zorn, who is coming to the conclusion of his second season, would not have an impact about how he feels about remaining in Washington.

"I feel like whether he [is] here or not, I would love to come back to this team, but that choice isn't mine," Portis said. "I think Coach Zorn would love to be here as well, but that choice isn't his. So I think you see guys going out and playing for Coach Zorn, guys giving everything they got. Whether he [is] here, whether I'm here, I think this organization [has] got to do what's best for them. Me and Coach Zorn and whoever else have got to leave this organization got to know we got another opportunity to continue our career, and hopefully it works out on that end."

Portis said he thought last week that he would be cleared to play against Oakland on Sunday, but he still has trouble focusing his right eye, and doctors told him they wouldn't be comfortable with him playing. "Is it scary?" he said. "Of course." But he said he is comfortable with the club's decision to end his season -- "Why risk it?" -- even if that decision brings up the possibility he will never again appear in a Washington uniform.

"If I have played my last game as a Redskin," Portis said, "I would like the fans here to remember, on Sunday I gave you everything I had."

Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.

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