While Clinton Portis became one of the most prolific tailbacks in the NFL over the past two seasons, he occasionally groused that the Denver Broncos offense was too "stingy" in the running game. Portis wondered how much gaudier his statistics -- 3,009 yards in two seasons -- would be if he were handed the ball more than 290 times last season or 273 times in 2002.
In a case of being careful of what you wish for, Portis has half-jokingly re-evaluated what he's gotten himself into in Coach Joe Gibbs's run-dominated offense. In last week's 17-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Portis played only one series, but rushed seven times -- in a row.
"If we keep playing like that I'm going to ask for another trade," Portis joked. "I don't think the Dolphins ever stopped our running game, and coach never stopped calling run plays."
When Gibbs was asked for a ballpark figure for Portis's projected rushes this season, he responded: "I don't know. I'd say his tongue's going to be hanging out. Let's put it that way. I warned him."
Portis is expected to easily get the most rushing attempts in his career this season. However, after suffering injuries late last season, Portis must prove that he's sturdy enough to carry the load. Portis, who is 5 feet 11, 205 pounds, missed three games last year, including the final two of the regular season, because of knee and ankle injuries. In Portis's rookie season, he played every game, including 12 starts.
Portis wants more carries than he averaged in Denver but admitted that enough can be enough.
"Good thing we've got capable backs such as John [Simon] and Ladell [Betts] and Rock [Cartwright] and Chad [Morton]," Portis said, referring to his backups, "who are going to help me take these carries so all the pressure is not on me.
"You get seven carries [in a row], you're going to be tired."
But Portis added: "Denver was stingy with the ball. If they put the ball in my hand, I'm going to step up to the challenge, if they don't I've got to do whatever it takes to help get a win."
During his first 12 years coaching the Redskins, Gibbs's teams averaged 526 carries per season, not including the 1982 strike-shortened season, and he varied from using workhorses like John Riggins to spreading out the majority of carries among two or three tailbacks.
"I would have a tendency to say a real good running back can adjust to almost anything," said Gibbs, who cited Portis averaging at least 1,500 yards in each of his first two seasons as proof of durability. "In Clinton's case, he was really good in Miami in college. He's been really good in Denver, and I have a real good feeling he'll be real good here."
Running backs coach Earnest Byner said that the Redskins will be careful about wearing out Portis.
"We're going to be smart about how we use him but also how we practice him as well," Byner said. "That's the other thing that can affect the longevity and also the season-nagging injuries. We'll make sure we keep him fresh, give him as many massages as he needs, go to the chiropractor, all that type of stuff.
"We're trying to ensure as much as possible that Clinton will make it through the season. But whether he's sturdy enough or not, you're going to have nagging injuries. That's just going to happen."
Arrington Won't Play
Although linebacker LaVar Arrington (left knee sprain) tried to persuade the team to allow him to play tomorrow against the St. Louis Rams, the medical staff will keep him out of his second straight exhibition game.
Arrington reiterated that he would play if it was a regular season game. Arrington headlines a list of several players who will miss the game, including linebacker Mike Barrow (knee tendinitis), defensive end Phillip Daniels (abdominal strain) and cornerback Walt Harris (calf).