For Earnest Byner, Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens will serve as a glimpse back at his past but also a look ahead to his future. The Redskins' running backs coach has a long history with the Baltimore Ravens organization, dating back to the mid-1980s when the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns.
Byner also is one of the 70 Greatest Redskins. He played for the burgundy and gold from 1989-93 and rushed for 3,950 yards--a mark that remains fifth on the team's all-time rushing list. He also won a Super Bowl ring in 1991 playing for Joe Gibbs.
Upon retirement in 1996, Byner served as the Ravens' Director of Player Development. He held that role through last season, when his desire to coach brought him back to Washington.
Byner is too focused on his job to even think about any nostalgia. And there's plenty of it with Cleveland-Baltimore franchise, from two AFC Championship game appearances in the late 1980s to winning a Super Bowl in 2000.
"This is a week of trying to get a win," he said. "That's the reality I'm in."
That doesn't mean Byner won't spend a little time after the game catching up with members of the Ravens organization.
"There are still a lot of people over there who I know--I worked with a lot of those players closely," he said. "Being in player development, you get to know the guys off the field. You get to know some of their strengths and weaknesses.The relationships with Ozzie Newsome, Steve Bisciotti, Brian Billick, the players and the rest of the staff--you can't really replace those relationships."
In Washington, Byner has re-forged bonds with his old coaches. During his time in Washington, Byner played for Gibbs, offensive coordinator Don Breaux, quarterbacks coach Jack Burns and assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel.
Byner has been working closely with new Redskins running back Clinton Portis. The 5-11, 205-pound Portis has rushed for 369 yards on 92 carries. He electrified the FedExField crowd on his first carry as a Redskin, bursting loose for a 64-yard touchdown.
Since then, Portis has averaged 3.4 yards per carry. He has also fumbled three times, including once in last week's 17-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
"Clinton's not frustrated, he's motivated to be successful," Byner said. "He has a desire to continue to excel and we want all of our players have those attributes. Those are the things that we are going to keep trying to push and try to convey to the players."
Byner praised Portis for accepting responsibility for the fumbles.
"Clinton is young, but evidently he has the abilities and forethought to stand up and be a leader--because we need leaders," Byner said. "Difficult times brings leadership out of individuals--and that's what I think you saw in Clinton."
Byner said the offense's struggles in recent games can be attributed to growing pains. Along with Portis, quarterback Mark Brunell, center Cory Raymer, right tackle Ray Brown and wide receiver James Thrash are among the newcomers to the offense.
"Obviously we want everything to work together," he said. "The reality is that we are building. It takes a little bit longer to build an offensive system, to scheme, and for everybody to get on the same page for that camaraderie to actually get established. We will find the answers. We know what can win games and that's what we going to focus on."