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Portis: 'I've Grown Up, Become a Leader'

Running back Clinton Portis spoke with this week about running backs coach Earnest Byner and if he feels he has improved this season.

Q: Talk about your relationship with running backs coach Earnest Byner. How has he helped you?

A: "He has helped out a lot. He gets you to believe and understand, tries to show you the ins and outs of the position, and never shows you just your positives against other defenses. He always puts the negatives in too because, honestly, other defenses do make plays. You can glorify yourself or say, 'This defense is sorry--they never stop anybody,' but at the same time, when you make the highlight tape, you need to put in the bad, too, so that you can see the strong points of the other team. Breaking that down gives me a better understanding of the game."

Q: Was Byner tough on you at first?

A: "Early on, it was tough love. Now, we're more relaxed. We can actually talk and I take his advice. Early on, with him being a first-year coach and me coming in like I knew everything, I really didn't want to listen. Now, just knowing that we're all heading in the same direction has changed the relationship. We all want to win--he wants to win and I want to win. So we're helping each other out."

Q: How have you improved this season compared to your first year in Washington?

A: "I'm patient. I understand my teammates' strong and weak points. I don't feel like I need to carry the load by myself. I'm adjusting to our game plan and doing whatever is asked because whatever is asked of me has the potential of putting our team in a better situation. Last year, I wanted to come here, let my talents show, and show that I wasn't a bust and that a system didn't make me. This year, you can say what you want to say, but I'm playing in the system. I'm playing team football. There's no selfishness involved. If I go out, have 40 yards, and we win, I know how to walk away smiling instead of frowning. This is a much better year because I've grown up and became a leader."

Q: Did you ever question whether you would succeed in this offense?

A: "I didn't. I stopped pressing and trying to make it happen. I began to relax. I began to enjoy the game. When I was in Denver, I enjoyed the game. I enjoyed my teammates. I enjoyed going on the field with Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith. I enjoyed knowing that we were going to go out and have fun. That's what I was telling the guys here. As long as we're having fun, the stats don't matter. Early on, Santana Moss was playing great and had everything going. Lately, defenses have been keying on Santana, taking him out of his game. But just because teams are keying on him doesn't mean that he's absent in our offense. He's doing other things such as blocking downfield on my runs and Rock Cartwright's runs. You just have to adjust your game and come out with a win."

Q: Where do you think you rank among the league's top backs?

A: "All of the stats don't matter. Every year, you're going to have a guy come in from college who feels like he's the best running back in the game. Being the top running back doesn't mean anything. At the end of the day, when you walk away from this game, the record books will tell you who played the best. Right now, all of the stats and publicity doesn't matter. The only thing that matters now is wins. After winning Rookie of the Year and going to the Pro Bowl, the only thing I haven't done is win the Super Bowl. That's what I want to do."

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