Redskins' Portis: I Can't Give No Satisfaction

Can Clinton make everyone happy?

It's become almost routine to hear Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis sigh and utter these words: "Man, people are never going to be satisfied."

It's easy to understand his case.

If he rushes for 1,300 yards, it's an off year.

If he hurts his shoulder trying to make a tackle in the preseason, he's suddenly injury-prone.

If he leaves a game because he needs a breather, he's a selfish diva -- even though only two backs in the NFL have had more carries over the last five seasons.

If he makes the type of candid comment that everyone loves to hear, he's too outspoken.

If he wears funny costumes for a few weeks, fans implore him to keep doing it indefinitely -- even though it was a wonderfully entertaining shtick from three years ago that could never really be replicated.

Could this be the year that Portis makes everyone happy? After all, he's by far the NFL's leading rusher, with 818 yards, seven touchdowns, a league-high 163 carries and four consecutive 120-yard games for a 5-2 team.

Portis doesn't think so. At least he doesn't want to think so.

"If I run for 3,000 yards, then it's 'Oh, Jason Campbell should have thrown the ball.' 'They gave him every carry -- that's why he had 3,000 yards,"' Portis said Wednesday. "What we've got to go out and do is not try to satisfy the outside. We know what makes us happy and that's winning, and as long as we're doing that, we're good."

Portis said he might have been "excited and going crazy" about leading the league in rushing in his younger days, but the years have jaded him a bit. His fun-loving showmanship and his open disdain for practice have often been mistaken for a me-first persona, criticism that stings.

"You think I'm fun loving -- most people think I'm a jerk," Portis said. "Most people think I'm stuck on myself or always throwing myself out to do something or being on my own schedule. It's always opinions. I can't make people understand me for what I'm worth. Y'all know what I do. I play around, laugh and joke. It ain't that serious to me, so I'm going to keep living no matter what they think."

Tight end Chris Cooley, also known to march to his own beat, offered his view of the real Portis.

"He's a lot of fun. At the same time, he's the hardest working, hardest playing football player that I've been around," Cooley said. "No one takes more hits and gives out more big hits in a game that Clinton Portis, and that kind of overrules all the goofiness and all the fun in the locker room. If you have a problem with Clinton Portis, put on a game film and watch him."

Or just count the sore body parts. Portis needed treatment on a shin, an ankle, his neck and a hip after Sunday's 175-yard performance in a 14-11 win over the Cleveland Browns. He was given the day off from practice Wednesday.

"Everything hurts, to be honest. Bumps and bruises, nothing major. I'll be fine. I had to get in the hot tub and have the water come up to here," said Portis, holding his hand up to his neck. "My ears hurt, but they haven't got a treatment for that yet."

Cooley said Portis is also appreciated for being outspoken, although sometimes the words don't come out right. Portis' most infamous foot-in-mouth moment was last year, when he made light of dogfighting during the Michael Vick investigation.

This year, Portis has fussed with former Redskins favorite Brian Mitchell on the radio because he felt Mitchell was unfairly criticizing him. He speculated what it would be like to run in a different scheme early in the season, comments seen by some as an insult to the offensive line. Two weeks ago, he said the Redskins "overlooked" the St. Louis Rams following a 19-17 upset loss, a point of view not shared by most of his teammates.

Given that the Redskins have been winning, Portis joked that he ought to keep finding ways to put down his teammates.

"If they took it to heart, I might need to stir it up again. So, I'm about to throw them under the bus," said Portis, who then laughed and started talking trash about each of his linemen.

It's hard to believe it was a little over a year ago that then-coach Joe Gibbs said Portis had become "interchangeable" with backup Ladell Betts. Now, Portis would be considered interchangeable only with the elite backs in the NFL.

His season has revived the debate over the trade that sent him from Denver to Washington.

Portis came to the Redskins in 2004 in exchange for Champ Bailey and a draft pick, a deal that still favors the Broncos because a shutdown cornerback is considered more valuable than a prized running back. Also, Bailey has made the Pro Bowl every year, while Portis has yet to get the Hawaii nod since arriving in the nation's capital.

Just counting this year, however, the deal could perhaps be called an even split.

"We're both in situations where we're enjoying it," Portis said. "Clinton loves it out in Denver; I love it in D.C. I think he's still one of the elite players at the corner position, and I feel like I'm one of the best at this position."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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