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Portis Is Accomplished Despite Young Age

With Clinton Portis, the numbers tell a great deal. The player the Redskins acquired Thursday in a trade involving Champ Bailey is only 22 years old. And yet, his accomplishments in the NFL seem out of place given his relatively tender age.

The 5-11, 205-pound Portis burst onto the scene the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos. Portis last year became only the third player in league history to rush for at least 1,500 yards in his first two seasons. He joined Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson in that elite group.

Overall, his stats are close to staggering. Portis has rushed for 3,099 yards and 29 touchdowns; he also has 71 receptions for 678 yards and two touchdowns to his credit.

Joe Gibbs helped welcome the NFL's 2002 Offensive Rookie of the Year to his new team Thursday.

Portis, a 2003 Pro Bowl pick, said he knows a lot will be expected of him in 2004.

"Sure, there will be a lot expected of me and there will be a lot placed on my shoulders," Portis said at Redskins Park. "These shoulders aren't that big, so I can't carry everything, but I will try to carry my share of the load."

Last year Portis led all NFL running backs in yards per carry (5.5). He finished fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,591 yards, despite missing three games due to injury.

As a Bronco a year ago, Portis produced 10, 100-yard rushing performances, including a stretch of six straight. In Week 14 versus Kansas City, Portis was the talk of the league as he carried 22 times for 218 yards and a franchise-record five touchdowns.

Coaches praised Portis's work ethic even when he wasn't carrying the football.

"We're all fans of production," Gibbs said. "In Clinton, we have a player who knows how to get things done. His body language, to me, is super important. This guy plays aggressive and extremely tough. Where that shows up is when he's not getting the ball. You ought to see his pass protection. He is trying to put it right in the middle of somebody. I think for his size he's very physical."

Added running backs coach Earnest Byner: "Clinton has quickness, acceleration and a great ability to break the long run at any time. And he has a great temperament--he doesn't mind blocking.

"And his work ethic even without the ball in his hand: If the ball is thrown 30 yard down the field, he's hustling down the field trying to get a block. You know you've got a great player when you see those type of things on the field."

As a rookie, Portis finished fourth in the NFL with 1,508 rushing yards. He came up with eight 100-yard rushing games and 17 touchdowns. In the 2002 season finale, Portis tormented the Arizona Cardinals with 228 yards on the ground.

"I'm really happy to be over here, as part of coach Gibbs' new race team," Portis said, smiling at the reference to Gibbs' former involvement in NASCAR auto racing. "I think this is a great situation for me to be in."

Portis added: "I only weigh 205, but I feel as though my best skill as a football player involves my heart. My heart is in every game. My teammates know that when the chips are down, I can inspire them with a big play. I think that's my best attribute as a player."

Drafted in the second round (51st overall) out of the University of Miami, Portis earned first-team All-Big East honors and finished third on the Hurricanes' all-time single-season list with 1,200 rushing yards as a junior.

Said Portis: "It's flattering, any time you can be involved in a deal for a four-time Pro Bowler. Champ has established himself as a great player in this league. I'm used to winning, coming from the University of Miami. It's a new start here with the Redskins for a lot of us. We've got to find a way to come together. There are a lot of great pieces already in place."

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