No joke, Portis is focused
Spotlight on Redskins rusher as he faces his old team in Denver
Ashburn, Va. // The WWE-replica championship belt is retired. The pink high-top sneakers and the matching fuzzy hat have been missing.
But lest anyone think Clinton Portis has lost his sense of humor, the Washington Redskins running back showed yesterday he hasn't lost a step as he offered a prelude to the road game against the Denver Broncos (3-1) on Sunday.
Here was Portis on Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith, who said he would "knock out" Portis after he teased Smith for leaving a game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a concussion: "I think Rod's still got a concussion from two weeks ago. ... He called me, and he was talking to me as if we were married. I realized then that I'm the wrong one. He called me late night, like, 'What's up? What are you doing?' I was like, 'Hey, Rod. This is Clinton.'"
Portis on Denver linebacker Al Wilson, who intimated that the team's blocking schemes contributed to Portis' success with the Broncos: "When I was out there, Al always used to say he played running back in high school. I thought he was a little too chubby to play running back in high school."
Portis on a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt-style sunglasses he wore during yesterday's media session: "It's going to be like Hollywood. Everybody's going to be watching, so it's time to put on a show."
For all of the comedy, Portis is correct in noting that Sunday's game is intriguing as it pits the two teams involved in the blockbuster trade of 2004.
After racking up 3,099 yards and 29 touchdowns in two seasons with the team that drafted him, Portis wanted to renegotiate his contract, which did not sit well with coach Mike Shanahan, who is also Denver's executive vice president of football operations.
In Washington, team officials were wary about re-signing four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who was seeking a contract that likely would have rivaled the eight-year, $68 million extension linebacker LaVar Arrington signed with the team in 2003.
So the teams swapped star players, and the Redskins threw in a second-round choice in the 2004 draft that yielded running back Tatum Bell.
Now in the second season since the trade, both teams expressed satisfaction with the deal.
"I think that trade is one of those that winds up as being good for both teams," said Washington coach Joe Gibbs, who, as the franchise's team president, endorsed the swap. "Certainly, we love Clinton, and I think from their side, I'm sure like they feel like they got a great deal."
Said Shanahan: "Champ has done a great job playing for us. He handles himself like a pro's pro - the way he practices every day, the leadership ability he has and the talent. I just think it's been a win-win situation for both teams."
Both Portis and Bailey have taken the high-road approach, saying Sunday's game should be about teams and not individuals.
Bailey, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for the Redskins game, said he does not harbor a grudge against the Redskins, who agreed to an eight-year, $50.5 million deal with Portis.
"To me, they're just another opponent that's in our way, another team we've got to beat," said Bailey, who was voted to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl last season and leads the Broncos with two interceptions. "That's the way I look at it. Obviously, I played there, but who cares about that now? We're all about wins, regardless of who's in front of us."
Initially resentful of the seven-year, $63 million contract Denver gave to Bailey, Portis said all he cares about is helping Washington improve to 4-0.
"It's a special opportunity, but at the same time, we're going there to win," said Portis, the NFC's eighth-leading rusher with 263 yards. "It's not about me. It's not about Champ. It's about us as teams trying to advance and do better."