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Portis Aims to Make His Mark

Many great athletes have been a part of the Redskins' backfield over the years. Larry Brown was the first Washington rusher to break the 1,000-yard barrier, carrying for 1,125 yards in 1970. Also in the 1,000-yard club for the Redskins: Mike Thomas, John Riggins, Terry Allen, Earnest Byner, George Rogers, Reggie Brooks and Stephen Davis.

Recently acquired Clinton Portis certainly wants to add his name to the list. Portis, who just completed his second mini-camp with the team, has the power and elusiveness to accomplish as much.

As has been well documented, Portis, acquired in a deal that sent cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round draft pick to the Denver Broncos on March 3, has eclipsed the 1,500-yard mark in both of his first two seasons in the NFL.

Last season, Portis ran for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns, good for fifth in the NFL. In his rookie campaign, the former University of Miami Hurricane posted 1,508 yards and 15 touchdowns for Denver.

Portis knows the expectations will be there after signing a lucrative eight-year deal with the Redskins.

"When you put that kind of pressure on yourself you tend to try to 'over do' things," Portis said. "You get out of your comfort zone and try to prove things to people.

"If I can relax and go out and play like I know how to play, the fans will accept and appreciate that. I just need to relax and do what is expected of me."

Running backs coach Earnest Byner, who rushed for 1,219 yards in 1990 and 1,048 yards in the 1991 Super Bowl season, knows he has someone special to work with in the 22-year old Portis.

When asked about his working relationship with his new position coach, Portis said: "He's open to ideas and he lets you go out and play. He understands--because he's been in that same position."

Byner takes a nearly self-deprecating approach toward the Redskins' new featured back. He jestingly put it this way: "I became a better running backs coach with the acquisition of Clinton."

Byner added: "We're very happy to have him. I'm looking forward to working with him and trying to become a good tandem."

As can be imagined, having the chance to work with Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs has Portis excited as well.

Said Portis: "He's used to winning and he can change the organization back to its winning ways. It's exciting when you see coach drawing up a play. You just start thinking, 'How is the defense going to stop us?'"

"I don't think you have to worry about Clinton--he's already done it," said Gibbs. "He's already produced, and he has a good attitude toward things. I think football is important to him."

Portis's talent and outlook have him primed for another strong season. As he approaches his first season in the NFC East, the 5-11, 205-pound Gainesville, Fla., native is working hard to join his position coach on the list of outstanding backs in Redskins history.

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