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Coach's Corner: Earnest Byner

Every week, chats with a Redskins coach about a hot topic. This week: running backs coach Earnest Byner discusses Ladell Betts, T.J. Duckett and Clinton Portis:

"I always encourage my [running backs] to think like starters, even though they're not always in the game. The experiences that Ladell [Betts] has had over the last few years have definitely got him ready. He has been a very good student and a good team player. He is smart and he is prepared.

"For me, when I first came to Washington, it was Gerald Riggs who got hurt and I got an opportunity to come in. I actually spoke with Joe [Gibbs] about wanting to be 'the guy,' about wanting the offense to depend on me and about what it would take for me to do that.

"That's what happened. I rushed for a few 100-yard games right in a row and the rest is Redskins history.

"In any situation, when you become 'the guy,' it's a different mentality and a different presence that you feel. It's a different level of preparation. Jason Campbell is going through a very similar situation. It's just different.

"When you feel that, you get a particular energy. It actually propels you and gets you ready to take advantage of the situation because it takes a different level of energy to pound the ball 20-30 times a game.

"Ladell did very well against Minnesota [during the 2004 season] when he was 'the guy' for us because of an injury to Clinton [Portis]. What you saw last Sunday from Ladell is what we've seen on the practice fields. Every single day, Ladell works hard, he works fast, and he makes people miss on the second level when he breaks tackles.

"T.J. [Duckett] has also worked very diligently and has shown to be an incredible team player. His character has stood up. Now he's looking forward to the opportunity. We can only go through so many drills in practices, but he's been a real good student and he's trained himself to be ready.

"No question we're excited to see what he can do in short yardage situations. You saw him convert a 3rd-and-1 against Philly, and for him to take control of that situation the way he did was important. The line blocked well, Mike Sellers had a picture-perfect block. T.J. is prepared for this opportunity and we're excited about his potential.

"As for Clinton, as a running back you're bound to lose an extended amount of time at some point unless you're extremely, extremely lucky. And Clinton has been lucky. The first few years he had some nicks and had to miss a couple of games, but he hasn't had anything really serious.

"Now what this does is it points to the offseason and how crucial the offseason conditioning and training and the rehab is, how crucial that will be for his ultimate success to continue on.

"What you hope is that [his injuries] are isolated. But you need to do the things that are necessary--and I think he will--to ward off future injuries. And that is get in the weight room, do additional training and get the massages and get rest and relaxation. And I think he will take hold to that."

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