If anything was learned from the Redskins' season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was this: Clinton Portis knows how to make an entrance. On his first carry as a Redskin, Portis burst past several would-be tacklers, cut back to the right and looked downfield.
What did he see? Nothing but open field ahead.
Portis turned on the speed and, as he put it, he was "off to the races." He was a full stride ahead of safety Jermaine Phillips when he crossed the goal line.
It was a 64-yard touchdown run. It gave Washington an early 7-0 lead and had the FedExField crowd of 90,098 rocking. The Redskins would go on to win 16-10.
Turns out that play was supposed to go left.
"Knowing the Tampa Bay defense, and how fast they fill holes, they were pursuing to stop the play," Portis said after recording 148 yards on 29 carries, a lofty 5.1 yards per carry. "They were just going to run--that's how fast they over-pursued. So I just stayed play-side and it was just me and the safety left at the end."
Added Tampa Bay defensive end Greg Spires: "Everybody was going inside on the left. He cut it back inside, behind me, and there was a hole wide open. It was a good run. He's a good back."
Portis said he wanted to come out and "set a standard" in his first game as a Redskin.
"We wanted to go out and make a statement," Portis said. "I think the O-line took the challenge first, going up against one of the top defenses in the league in Tampa. And the O-line did that.
"When Chris Samuels comes to you and tells you, 'I really don't need any help on Simeon Rice,' he's making a statement. I knew what they could do, and I knew what they expected out of me."
Portis also made quite an impression on Joe Gibbs. During the game, Portis was pointing out plays to Gibbs that he thought would work against the Bucs' defense.
It even had the normally stoic Gibbs excited.
"One of the best things about Clinton is his enthusiasm on the sidelines," Gibbs said. "He is so bright-eyed, almost jumping your face and saying, 'Run this play!' All I can say is, 'Okay, we'll run it.'"
Added Gibbs: "I think he's a tough guy. He really has the team's interest at heart. And I think he's going to be a heck of a Redskin."
At the end of the game, Portis had become more of a grind-it-out back--the type of back that Gibbs often uses late in games to run down the clock.
Led by Portis's tough running, the Redskins whittled down the play clock from 5:03 to just :21 seconds when the Bucs got the ball for a last-gasp play.
"The grind-it-out times are going to come in every game," he said. "You're not always going to hit a big one. The goal is to keep it positive. Whether it's one or two yards, just keep it positive. It's better to be second and nine than second and 10.
"The team stepped up and said, 'Let's make a statement.' We had an opportunity to put them away. We needed a few first downs, so we decided to run the ball down their throat. Everybody wanted to run. Anytime the offensive line is saying, 'Run, run, run,' they've got something spectacular in them. We listened, we ran, and we won."