Going deep on the soul of D.C. sports

Portis confident he can remain 'the man' in Washington, not opposed to restructuring contract

December 2, 2010 - 12:43 PM
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Clinton Portis' season is over thanks to surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, but he is confident he can return to form in Washington next season. (Photo: Associated Press)

Two days removed from surgery to repair a lower abdominal muscle tear and groin pull, Clinton Portis said that he "would love to come back" to the Washington Redskins next season and believes that he can continue to contribute at a high level as the team’s feature back.

Portis’ rehabilitation process will take three to six weeks, doctors believe, and the running back said that he is getting to work right away rather than waiting even though he already has been placed on injured reserve and a return this season has been ruled out.

Portis next season will be 30 years old and entering his 10th professional season. He has 9,923 yards and 75 touchdowns on 2,230 carries -- a lot of mileage for a running back -- and will not have played a full season since 2008. But none of that will be a hindrance, Portis believes.

“I have had two years of recovery,” Portis told a throng of reporters as he stood in front of his locker. “I’m looking forward to bouncing back from this, having it all behind me and coming in next season competing for another season and another starting job. I’m not going to go out thinking, ‘Oh, I’m coming off of a groin injury.’ I’m going to continue to think and come out and prepare as if I’m going to be the man and play as if I am the man, so that’s my preparation.”

A return to Washington would keep alive Portis’ quest to surpass John Riggins as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Portis has 6,284 rushing yards as a Redskin, and needs 684 yards to catch Riggins, who rushed for 7,472 yards as a Redskin.

But another hurdle could be standing in Portis’ path. That’s the fact that he is owed $8.3 million next season and likely would have to restructure his contract to a much lower figure for Washington to bring him back. Asked privately if he would be willing to do so, Portis said, “Man, I’m not worried about that. Whatever they feel like they have to do, it’ll work itself out.”

Portis said that he hasn’t had a conversation with coach Mike Shanahan about his future, but that he believes the coach knows his desire is to remain in Washington.

“He sees me around here enough. I don‘t have to say ‘Coach I’m really focused.’” Portis said during his press conference. “Your body of work speaks for itself. Every day of being here from 6 o’clock in the morning since training camp and day in and day out, and contributing any way I can, I think it was a great work.”

Shanahan last week said that he is confident Portis can make a full recovery, and that he still has quality football ahead of him. “If anyone can do it, it’s Clinton,” said Shanahan, who drafted Portis out of Miami and coached him two years and was reunited with him this season.

The reunion with Shanahan was what motivated Portis to work hard to regain his Pro Bowl form after having the 2009 season cut short by a concussion. Portis never had been one to dedicate himself to a rigorous offseson training program, and if he did train, it was away from Redskins Park. But this past year with Shanahan on board, he never missed a day of training.

Portis contrasted his desire this season with a time in his career two years ago, when he pondered retirement following the 2008 season.

“The previous two seasons were just losing the lust for the game, and not really knowing what I wanted to do compared to finally putting the work in this offseason to getting back and having the system you believe in, and having the right teammates around you, seeing the right guys fight for the right purpose, all of a sudden you miss it again,” Portis said. “I think for myself, being here all through the offseason working, coming up short, is just having the opportunity to finding the fun in the game again and not letting the outside gestures or the situations that I can’t control worry or bother me.”

Portis opened the season on a slow pace, rushing for just 96 yards in two games. The next week, however, he had seven carries for 44 yards (6.3 yards a carry) and the following week he looked better than he had all season with 55 yards on 11 carries when he suffered the third-degree groin pull, which separated the muscle from the bone.

Portis spent the next five weeks working to return to action. He did on Nov. 21 against Tennessee, but after one quarter, which saw him notch five carries for 32 yards and a catch for 14 yards, he tore the abdominal muscle, which is right above the injured groin, while fighting for extra yardage.

It would seem that maybe Portis had returned too soon, and possibly should have been shut down for the season rather than return when he did. But Mike Shanahan said last week that he didn’t believe that the team had rushed Portis back because the player had gone through two weeks of practice without reporting any setbacks.

Portis himself said today that he doesn’t believe he did the wrong thing in trying to come back when he did.

“I don’t think so, I think the excitement of trying to recover and get back on the field, I recovered from the groin surgery” he said. “If you look at the game, you didn’t see any setbacks that lingered after two weeks of practice, I had the confidence to go out and not worry about it re-happening. I don’t think I should’ve sat out. I think that quarter to go out and provide the spark and that energy that I provided, it felt great.”

Although he couldn’t give any specific cases, Portis said that he has studied other players who came back from the same abdominal surgery, and is confident that he too can fully recover within the next two months, and possibly sooner. This recovery, he says, won’t be nearly as trying mentally as was the rebound from a concussion last season.

“It was tougher to come back from concussions just because no one else could actually judge, it was nothing you could measure,” he said. “With this, knowing you can fully recover and knowing the success rate of players having the same injury, the work is the easy thing. When you’re working for a cause, you can believe in the work. For myself, it’s a three- to six week protocol. I could be ready before the end of the season. Hopefully I am, and the coaches know I’ll be ready and ready to compete when it’s time to compete.”

Step 1 in Portis’ road back starts today. His assignment, he said, is walking one mile.

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