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Portis Looks Back At 'Grind-It-Out' Season

Clinton Portis has had plenty of time to reflect on last season--and one word keeps on coming to him when asked to describe his first year in Washington: "Patience."

Portis had to adjust his style of running, playing the role of a bigger back despite a 5-11, 205-pound frame.

After his first carry as a Redskin, a memorable 64-yard touchdown run in the season opener, Portis soon recognized that teams were going to put eight defenders on the line to stop the run.

He had to be patient and wait for the running lanes to open before him.

Only then could he attack the line of scrimmage--like he had done many times before in his career.

His 1,315 rushing yards--on a career-high 343 carries--last season were all "tough yards," Portis said.

"It was a grind-it-out season," Portis said. "I kept telling myself, 'Don't get frustrated if you only get two or three yards on a carry, because eventually you'll get six or seven or something. When you get your opportunity, you have to make the best of it."

Another season and another opportunity started this week. The Redskins' voluntary offseason workout programs started on Monday, with Portis among those players in attendance.

Head strength and conditioning coach John Dunn cited Portis as among the upbeat players back in the Redskins Park weight room. Dunn also suggested that Portis was taking on more of a leadership role this offseason.

The fourth-year running back employed more of a slashing style of running during his first two seasons in Denver. Playing in a pass-first West Coast offense for Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, Portis rushed for 3,099 yards on 563 carries.

In Washington, it was not only Portis who faced an adjustment. The Redskins offense seemed out of sync early in the season. The unit finished 30th in the NFL in total offense and didn't score more than 18 points in a game until Week 13.

Even Portis, who produced 174-, 148- and 147-yard rushing efforts last year, went through a difficult stretch midway through the season.

"It was different," he said. "I had to adjust. It's hard to hit a home run when the box is stacked all the time and you're dodging people at all points during the game. I had to switch up and become a big back. I had to adjust my running style.

"Of course, next year I'll be better because it'll be another year after the adjustment. Last year was a learning experience. We all went through it together and now we can look forward to next season."

Said Gibbs, earlier in the offseason: "I talked to Clinton and said, 'Clinton, we struggled on offense [last season], yet you still rushed for more than 1,300 yards. I just want to make sure you know how much we appreciate that.'

"He played physical every week. He would block and catch. I wanted to put it all in some kind of context for him. It was a hard-fought season and I didn't want him to think differently."

Towards the end of last season, Portis grew impressed with a Redskins offense that kept battling and trying to improve after the early season struggles.

The offense was more well-rounded in the final six games, particularly in wins over the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings.

"I actually do feel good about the direction this team is going," Portis said. "Offensively, I think we were coming together like our defense was at the beginning of the season. They had great intensity and we want to give the same kind of effort that they give."

Portis ended the 2004 season on the Redskins' injured reserve list. In the Week 16 game at Dallas, in the first half, he suffered a torn tendon in the pectoral muscle near his sternum, an injury that forced him to sit out the season finale against Minnesota.

If the injury had occurred early in the season, Portis likely would have missed 3-4 weeks.

"I'll be able to do everything this offseason--it wasn't an injury that was going to hinder me for a long time," he said. "I actually started doing push-ups again the night of the last game. So I'm fine."

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