2 from the U: Portis, Moss strong for playoff-bound Redskins Print
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Thursday, 03 January 2008 12:51
NFL Headline News

 ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Clinton Portis was his usual cutup self Thursday in the Washington Redskins' locker room, cracking jokes at Santana Moss' expense.
Moss, sitting one locker to the right, was clearly not amused.
Their personalities are so different, it's sometimes hard to imagine how they get along. Portis can be a flamboyant tease; Moss is friendly but rarely cracks a smile. Portis would love nothing better than to never have to practice again; Moss has a work ethic that no one questions.
What they have in common is a University of Miami bond that they also shared with the late Sean Taylor, whose locker sits undisturbed on the other side of Portis' locker.
And, in the four-game winning streak that put the Redskins into the playoffs, both recovered from early setbacks to produce some of their best numbers of the season.
``They've kind of taken over,'' assistant coach Joe Bugel said. ``Those are big-play guys for us, and, boy, they're making big plays.''
Portis missed the entire preseason with tendinitis in his knee. Moss battled injuries to his heel, groin and hamstring during the first two-thirds of the season. Neither looked like his old self.
Now, they do - and Portis isn't bashful about his part of it.
``Right now, the shares for this stock - they're outstanding,'' he said, puffing his chest out and laughing.
Between running and receiving, Portis has more than 120 combined yards from scrimmage in each of the last four games. He's rushed for 1,200 yards for the fifth time in his six-year career, his 47 catches for 389 yards are both career highs, and he's quietly earned a reputation as an avoid-at-all-cost blocker.
``What's most impressive - and I don't think he gets enough credit for it - is his blitz pickup,'' said Seattle Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who'll be eyeing Portis when the Redskins visit the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.
``He hammers guys when they come through,'' he said. ``I've seen him put a couple of linebackers out in years past. He's over there calling for the stretcher for them, 'Come get 'em!' Tough, tough guy.''
Portis also feels he's become a better team player, a noteworthy achievement from someone known for marching to his own beat with his own sense of fashion. Portis wore a costume at Redskins Park only once this year, although he left the stadium after the victory over Dallas on Sunday wearing red shoes, a red scarf and a fedora.
``I feel like I went above and beyond my goals of becoming a better teammate, a better guy in the locker room,'' Portis said. ``Hang out with more of my teammates and find out more about my teammates, I feel as if I did that.''
Portis also feels fresh because his body wasn't put through the rigors of training camp in August, but he admits that he paid the price by playing rusty in the early weeks of the season.
``I probably missed some reads - it had its plusses and minuses,'' said Portis, who didn't have a 100-yard rushing game until November.
Moss isn't as expressive about his own accomplishments, but he's fun to watch when he's on. When he had the leg injuries, he was a 5-foot-10 receiver without much explosiveness - not a recipe for success in the NFL. Finally healthy and able to practice regularly, he finished the regular season with three 70-plus yard games and touchdowns in each of the last two.
``No matter how tall or short the defender, he can go up a tick earlier than the defender and still come down with the ball,'' receiver Antwaan Randle El said. ``And the defender will be looking like, 'What happened? Where'd he come from?'''
Just talking about a high-performance Moss made Randle El practically giddy - because it means Randle El is getting less attention from the defense.
``Oh, I love it!'' Randle El said. ``Like, this week, he's going to get the double coverage. Yes!''
After his eight-catch, 115-yard game against Dallas on Sunday, Moss exhibited a rare bit of Portis-like humor by saying he didn't want his hands touched.
``I want them to stay hot,'' he said.
Of course, all is not fun and games for either Moss or Portis as they continue to cope with the loss of Taylor, who was shot in Miami on Nov. 26 and died a day later. Moss often pays tribute to Taylor on the field by holding up his index, middle and pinkie fingers - his way of spelling ``21'' for Taylor's jersey number.
``I really believe he's playing with us,'' Moss said. ``I go out there and I talk to him when I'm away from the game and I talk to him when it's time to play, because I want him to know that I've got his back and I want him to ride with me until he can't ride no more - until I can't ride no more. And that's forever.''
Notes: WR James Thrash (sprained ankle) and QB Jason Campbell (dislocated knee) were the only players not to take part in practice Thursday.
 

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