Back with Shanahan, Portis is a believer

ASHBURN - The commitment is different, Clinton Portis claims. Maybe it's because he's pushing 30 years old, inching closer to the end of his career. Maybe it's because of the criticism leveled at him at the end of the season and into the offseason. Maybe it's because of the presence of two former Pro Bowl running backs.

Regardless, Portis says he's more committed.

He says it's because of coach Mike Shanahan.

"It's a difference when you say commitment and you want someone to buy into a system that you don't believe in," Portis said. "Having Coach Shanahan here, you believe in whatever he says. If he tells you, 'I think that we can jump off the room and land safe,' it's like, 'All right, [bleep] it; let's jump.' ... He'll approach you like a man and tell you what he wants from you and he'll get it done."

What he wants from Portis is different than what the Redskins back delivered in 2009, when he missed the last eight games with a concussion. That came after a 2008 season in which Portis rushed for 944 yards and was talked about as an MVP candidate at midseason but had just 543 yards the rest of the way.

Now his future is uncertain. He's playing for a coach who once traded him, albeit in a system that fit him well last time around; Portis rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his two seasons with Shanahan in Denver.

"Clinton has worked very hard; he's done everything I've asked," Shanahan said.

Now, because of his age, injuries and the presence of two other backs in Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, it's fair to wonder where Portis' career is heading. Portis recently was cleared to practice, and Shanahan said he has missed only one offseason workout.

"I say keep wondering, man," said Portis, who turns 29 in September. "I'm at the point of being tired of proving myself. ... You get [written] off so quick, and people get tired of having a mainstay. I always put this organization on my back and gave it everything I had, and it's still like I'm an outcast. 'Get Portis out of here.' Like I'm the reason the Redskins weren't winning.

"I was the guy who gave everything he had to the organization and to feel like everyone wants you out? To not have [your] back? ... But for all the naysayers and haters, they finally opened my eyes. That's the motivation I needed just to feel like it's me against the world again."

Portis -- who is 876 yards shy of breaking John Riggins' all-time Redskins rushing record -- says he's fine with Johnson and Parker on the roster. Of course, there are no carries to divide in April. Still, for now teammates say they see a change.

"Clinton has been beaten up in the papers and taken a lot of [heat] from everybody," Redskins center Casey Rabach said. "From what I see he's back to the old Clinton. He's working his butt off. There's definitely a difference; he's here every day. I expect big things from him."

Click here to order Clinton Portis' proCane Rookie Card.

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