ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Clinton Portis wore an all-purple baseball cap into the locker room on Monday, his 27th birthday. Noticeable, but hardly anything that would shake up the fashion world.
When the running back held his regular session with reporters this week, he sat casually on the stairs - instead of standing and mugging for the cameras.
C'mon, Clinton. Where's the showmanship? This should be right up your alley: The Washington Redskins are facing the defending champion New York Giants in the Thursday night NFL opener.
``The NFL is hindering me on shining on this stage,'' Portis said. ``They keep fining me for everything, so I really can't alter my uniform or have my swag for the game.''
Make no mistake: Portis is still very much Mr. Fun, but he's had enough nagging from the league about his love for disobeying the uniform code. No more striped socks. No more wrong-color shoes. In a game in which his team gets to play the potential party-spoiler for the league champions, Portis laments that ``everybody's going to look the same.''
``They've stopped me now,'' Portis said. ``They've done dogging me, they've done singling me out. I'm trying to make sure it doesn't happen this season. I'm tired of throwing money away.''
Of course, that won't stop Portis from standing out in a crowd when he's not on the field. He did have an early birthday celebration Saturday night and described his outfit by saying: ``I think I was pretty hot.''
He even offered the slightest of hints that he will one day again appear in costume for his weekly press chat, as he did in 2005 when he portrayed characters such as ``Southeast Jerome'' and ``Sheriff Gonna Getcha.''
``I've got to find ol' Southeast,'' Portis said. ``He might be back sometime.''
If Southeast does make an appearance, it would likely mean that Portis is thriving in coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense. Portis likes the fact that Zorn will often use the pass to set up the run, spreading the defense to open up lanes for potential huge gains.
Portis led the NFL last season with 325 carries, but space was hard to come by in Joe Gibbs' offense and he finished with a disappointing 3.9 average to accumulate 1,262 yards.
``With this offense, once we start rolling, it's going to be positioned to make plays,'' Portis said. ``You make a guy miss, you can be off to the races.''
Portis also feels fresh and fit. The Redskins worked a significant financial incentive into his contract to make him stick around in the spring and take part in the team's offseason regimen. Also, he's never liked playing in August, and this time his wish was granted with a light load: only 15 carries in five preseason games.
``I don't even have a bruise on my body, a bump or a bruise,'' Portis said. ``I guess the offseason weightlifting is paying off - that's what they want to keep telling me.''
Should Portis repeat his yard total from last season, he would be in rare Redskins territory. He would surpass Stephen Davis and Larry Brown and become the venerable franchise's No. 2 leading rusher, trailing only Hall of Fame back John Riggins.
While it's fashionable to put Portis on an all-glamour or all-diva team, the dirty little not-so-hidden secret is that he is an outstanding blocker, unafraid to pop a blitzing linebacker in the name of protecting the quarterback. Even Rock Cartwright, who throws his body around as a special teams standout, said he's tried to steal some of Portis' blocking techniques.
``That's what he lives for,'' Cartwright said. ``If he gets somebody good, he's going to run to the sideline jumping up and down and, like, 'Ohhhhhh, guys! I got 'em! I got 'em!'''
That's one reason backup Ladell Betts had only 93 carries last season. It's hard to take Portis out of the game.
``It is just the excitement of playing football,'' Portis said of his blocking. ``Getting that opportunity to spring somebody.''
As with most players, Portis has developed a better sense of responsibility as the years go by. The former University of Miami back has learned how to be a better professional - without sacrificing the fun-loving side. When new teammate and former Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor tried to upstage Portis' interview session during preseason, Portis quickly turned the tables.
``I think he's really just jealous because the 'U' is really the team in Miami - they're bigger than the Dolphins,'' Portis said. ``Nobody goes to the Dolphins games. You can't even name their big rival.''
Said Betts: ``He's still Clinton. He likes to joke around, likes to be sarcastic, but he's maturing.''
Not everything about maturity is good, however. When a reporter noticed something different about Portis' hair and asked if the birthday boy was starting to grow a mohawk, Portis shook his head.
``I'm going bald,'' he said, walking away. ``I'm getting old, man. I'm going to have that hair replacement surgery.''
Probably not so. But, with Portis, one never knows.
Notes: DE Jason Taylor (knee) did not practice and remains a game-time decision, although it appears unlikely he will play. WR Malcolm Kelly (knee) and S Kareem Moore (hamstring) will not play. ... ... WR Devin Aromashodu was signed to the practice squad.

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