When tailback Clinton Portis sauntered off the field in helmet and pads after this morning's practice, it was difficult to notice any difference in his physique. During a spirited practice, Portis exhibited his usual explosiveness and shiftiness. But Portis said this morning that he has gained almost 20 pounds to help withstand the pounding as the lynchpin of Coach Joe Gibbs's offense.
Portis is listed on the Redskins's official roster as 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, which is an increase of seven pounds from last season. But weights listed on the roster are fluid and not exact. And Portis said today that he weighs about 225 after playing last season between 205 and 207, the heaviest in his football-playing career.
"I picked up 20 pounds getting in the weight room," Portis said, sweating after the morning practice. "I guess age [contributed]. I'm getting old."
The third-year veteran chuckled, then turned serious:
"Pretty much it was just working [out]. I knew what it was going to take. I knew I needed to pick up weight for the type of offense that we're running. In the two-yard gains, I probably need this weight to turn 'em into four or five [yards]."
Last season, Portis amassed 1, 315 rushing yards, the sixth highest figure in franchise history. But the scatback-sized runner took a pounding while averaging only 3.8 yards, often running in between tackles like a power back.
"As the season wears on, some of the weight is going to disappear," said Portis, who gained an average of 5.5 yards per rush in his first two NFL seasons. "I think last year, early on, I was probably a little wore down. This year, I'm looking to be in it for the long run. It's going to be physical. There's going to be contact made. And I'm going to be the one making it."
The Redskins have altered their blocking schemes to better accommodate Portis, who prefers open space. But the counter trey -- which requires patience and pounding -- will remain a staple of Gibbs's offense. And unlike other runners his size, Portis -- who runs with as much power as finesse -- gains much of his yards running up the middle.
Portis said he increased his girth without any prodding from Redskins coaches. During the off-season, Portis also worked out religiously in the weight room at Redskins Park among teammates.
"I just felt like that's what I needed to do," said Portis, who played his first two seasons with the Broncos. "Out in Denver, I didn't need this weight. It was hit or miss. Here, it might be grinding; it might be hit-or-miss. You never know, but just in case, it's another grinding period, I'll be prepared."
Portis said he doesn't have a weight goal to start the season and just wants to be in good physical condition despite his increased weight. He added that he didn't go on a special diet, and in fact benefited from the freakish metabolism that helps makes him a special talent.
"I've still been eating cheeseburgers at one in the morning," Portis said matter-of-factly. "I still get up and eat hot wings." But Portis added: "If you get in the weight room on a day-to-day basis, you're bound to gain muscle weight. And I did."
Did the increased weight affect his shiftiness?
"You've been out in practice," Portis responded. "Does it look like it's affecting me?"
. . . Cornerback Shawn Springs was back at practice after missing Monday's sole afternoon session with a sore hamstring. . . . Cornerback Carlos Rogers -- who hasn't participated in his first NFL camp session yet because of foot injury -- said that he wouldn't be able to practice this week. "I ain't ready for that yet," Rogers said.