Time and again, Clinton Portis approached Joe Gibbs on the Redskins' sidelines and told him, 'Give me the ball. Put the game on my shoulders.' Even when Portis was out of the game due to several hard hits during Sunday's 13-10 win over the Chicago Bears, he quickly returned.
Portis logged 171 rushing yards in the game--his second 100-yard rushing effort this year. With 593 yards, Portis is the NFC's rushing leader through Week 6. He is just 20 yards behind the NFL leader, Curtis Martin of the New York Jets.
Given Portis's 5-11, 205-pound frame, some have questioned whether he is durable enough to shoulder 30-plus carries on a consistent basis.
On Monday, Gibbs said Portis's workload is something the team monitors, with running backs coach Earnest Byner paying close attention to Portis's status during each game. But in the end, Gibbs said he leaves it up to Portis to communicate when he needs a break during a game.
"We tell Clinton that if at any point he's tired, we want him out of there," Gibbs said. "What we told him was, 'Don't stay in there if you're winded at all. Keep yourself fresh.' We have Earnest Byner watching Clinton and he is certainly someone who understands running backs. So our goal is to keep [Portis] fresh."
Gibbs said he mostly lets game situations dictate whether he's going to continue running the ball with a certain back.
On Sunday, Gibbs was certainly impressed with Portis's toughness, particularly after sustaining hard tackles.
"A couple of times, you would have thought he would have come out of the game," Gibbs said. "Instead he came out for one play and went right back in. I think he is very forceful and very tough. He played great for us this week."
If Portis has to sit out a play or two during a game, backup Ladell Betts enters. On Sunday, Gibbs was impressed with Betts. The third-year back compiled 30 yards on six carries, with runs of 10 yards and 14 yards in the first half.
"Ladell made two great runs for us and he's a real talented guy," Gibbs said.
From a historical perspective, Portis's 36 carries was the fifth most by a Redskin in a game. In 1988, Jamie Morris logged a team-record 45 carries in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Byner is second with 39 carries in 1990 in a game against the New England Patriots.
Stephen Davis logged 38 carries in a 2002 game and 37 carries in a 1999 game.