|Redskins' Portis has comeback season: 'One of those backs you can never give up on'|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 December 2007 01:05|
The touchdown pass, to Antwaan Randle El in the second quarter of the Washington Redskins' win over Minnesota, was the third of his career. In fact, every time Portis has completed a pass in the NFL, the receiver has scored.
The sack? That was the first of his career. It came in the third quarter, when the Redskins went to the trick play yet again.
``Before that play, the coaches talked to me and said 'If it's not there, go down or throw it out of bounds,''' Portis said. ``I knew if I threw it out of bounds, it was going to mess up my passing rating that I acquired over the last six years. I went on and took the sack.''
Portis' performance last week earned him the honor of NFC offensive player of the week, but he's a more fitting candidate for the Redskins' comeback player of the year. His stock was at an all-time low in September - ``The demand for me is high right now, and I haven't supplied a lot,'' he said days before the season opener - but his numbers, his dedication and his attitude have combined to produce a season that reinforces his value to the team.
``He's one of those backs you can never give up on,'' receiver Santana Moss said.
This was supposed to be the year Portis became half of a rotating backfield with Ladell Betts. Two shoulder injuries and a broken hand had ruined Portis' season in 2006, and persistent tendinitis in his knee sidelined him for most of the offseason practices and nearly all of this year's training camp.
Now look at his statistics, and - surprise! - Portis has started all 15 games and is tied with Edgerrin James for most carries (300) in the NFC and is trailing only Pittsburgh's Willie Parker (321) in the NFL. Portis is third in the NFC in yards rushing (1,158) and his 362 yards receiving are two shy of his career high.
Betts, meanwhile, has become an afterthought, with 83 carries for 306 yards.
Even Portis is amazed at how fresh he is as the Redskins (8-7) prepare for the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys with a playoff berth on the line. His yards from scrimmage during the current three-game winning streak: 122, 126, 124.
That's pretty good for December.
``I found it strange for myself to feel the way I feel,'' Portis said Thursday. ``Today I realized I was second in the NFL in carries.''
Like the Redskins, Portis has been inconsistent, but that's due in part to factors beyond his control. A huge chunk of his rushing yards came in back-to-back games against the New York Jets (196) and Philadelphia (137), but a heavier emphasis on the passing game and injuries along the offensive line cut his production over the following weeks. He's averaging only 3.9 yards per carry for the season, well below his career average of 4.5.
Portis also is a powerful blocker, fearless when it comes to putting his body in the way of a blitz. He thinks one reason he's been catching more passes lately is because defenses know better than to blitz.
``I think teams have gotten away from sending that 'bonsai blitz,''' he said with a knowing smile. ``I have been punishing linebackers.''
Portis became the face of the grieving Redskins last month after the death of his close friend, safety Sean Taylor, and it's a role he's ready to relinquish. Portis was the only active player on the team to speak at the funeral, and he and his teammates have dedicated the rest of the season to their fallen teammate, but they want to do so in their own way.
``You can't forget about that situation, but at the same time constantly people want to talk about it,'' Portis said. ``You're tired of talking about it. We go through it enough having to come in this locker room, seeing the memorial, knowing that he's not out here. It's enough for us, but constantly people want to continue to talk about it every day: 'Oh, my condolences.' We appreciate it, but, you know, pray about it.''
Notes: Reserve OL Mike Pucillo, who has been inactive for two games with a back injury, was placed on injured reserve. T Kevin Sampson was promoted from the practice squad. T Calvin Armstrong was signed to the practice squad. ... QB Jason Campbell and LB London Fletcher are the co-winners of the team's Good Guy Award, which recognizes the players most cooperative with the media. ``You have to be available to the media in wins or losses,'' Fletcher said. ``Not just during the good times but also during the bad.''