Clinton Portis Confident He Can Still Contribute: “I feel better at this point than I have in a long time.”

July 15, 2011 – 5:45 am by Michael Bean

When the NFL Lockout is finally lifted and the free agent frenzy commences (however long it may be), there’s quite a few household names who will be eagerly awaiting to learn where they might have the chance to resurrect their careers. Willie Parker, Randy Moss, Clinton Portis, Nnamdi Asomugha all come to mind. For Portis, who turns 30 on September 1st, the future is particularly murky. He’s been injured the previous two seasons and has missed at least half the season in three of the past five campaigns. We’ll see how many teams are lining up to sign a 30-year old RB who was a big time workhorse early in his career, and subsequently has lots of miles on the proverbial odometer. Don’t count him out just yet though. He hasn’t shattered any ligaments or anything, and he’s had basically two years to rest and heal. We saw last year that LaDainian Tomlinson found a little burst in similar circumstances, at least early on in the 2010 season before he eventually started to slow down later on in the year. He’s probably not going to sign a multi-year deal or get paid handsomely, and it might take an injury or two during the preseason for Portis to finally get a call from a team, but when the 2011 regular season commences, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be suiting up for some team in the National Football League.

Portis joined ESPN 980 in DC with Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban to talk about what he’s been doing with while waiting to hear news on the lockout front, which team he’d ideally like to sign with once the lockout is finally lifted, whether he really thinks it’s realistic for him to be a feature back on a contending team in 2011, if he regrets shouldering such a big workload earlier in his career, his relationships with Coach Zorn and Shanahan respectively while with the Redskins, and why he has no regrets about his time in D.C. despite feeling a bit under-appreciated in the later years of his six-year tenure in the nation’s capital.

On what he’s been up to while patiently awaiting the day that the lockout is over:

“Just being prepared man. I think once the deal gets done, it’s going to be a whirlwind. And I think it being the last minute, a lot of teams are really not going to have the opportunity to sit and go day to day and bring in everybody, and I think people are really going to be in a rush to get things done. So I’ll just sit and wait, making sure I’m prepared and ready.”

If he had his choice, what team would he most like to join when the lockout is lifted:

“Any team I can help. I think I have choices, but any team that I can help that’s really a contender. I would love to go to….I’ve always been a fan of Drew Brees, I’ve been a fan of Philip Rivers, I think the young kid down in Tampa is going to be great. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Michael Vick, it’s a lot of guys. I just want to go to an organization that’s kind of stable and going to have a set offense and running with what they’re familiar with.”

Having been injured the past two years, does he really think it’s realistic to go be a feature back on a contender in 2011:

“I’m more worried about…you know, the injuries the last two years has really been a lot of rest for myself. And with the lockout going on this year, I had the opportunity to go out to Arizona and fully recover and train and straighten out some of the things that were ailing me that I didn’t even have a clue of. One thing led to another throughout my career, and it was never addressed with just the determination to go out and play through all the injuries that people never thought I had when I was missing practices and everything else. So I had the opportunity to go back and reflect on me, and get myself back to where I feel I need to be to compete with anybody for any job. And if I got to be coming off the bench, then I have no problem with that. But I don’t think it’s going to last long. I think there’s 32 NFL teams that have got capable guys of starting, and you’ve got guys behind them who feel like they want their shot.  So if I start off the second place, I’m going to continue to aim for first place. I’m never going to be comfortable in second.”

If he thinks he’ll be able to overcome hitting the dreaded age of 30 as a running back in the NFL:

“For myself, I think it’s just a number. You’re saying I turned 30, but I had a slate of two years where I really haven’t done anything. So right now, I feel good and feel better at this point than I have in a long time, just feeling like I’m completely healthy, just feeling like things are totally healed. And now that I know what I need to do and what I need to get accomplished, I’m fine with that.”

If he regrets having shouldered such a big workload early on in his career:

“I don’t actually, because I don’t feel like it’s wear-and-tear or my body just broke down. A year ago, I had a concussion, that had nothing to do with my body. That was a lick to the head, and I don’t think that was from wear and tear and oooh I can’t do it anymore. And you look at last year, I had a freak injury with the groin where I tried to come back and the coach felt I needed to wait another week or two. But I told him if it goes again, that’s just meant to happen. And I came out and played the Tennessee game and gave an uplifting eight carriers and got us through. So I was okay with that. I think the groin injury was the first of really wear-and-tear, but that was going on throughout the season. I had continued to go through practice, and continuously playing through the games. I think it just finally gave. But as far as wear-and-tear where I feel like ‘oh, my knees ain’t got it, or I can’t move and I can’t do this’, I don’t feel that way. I feel like I can go play basketball and I can dunk; I feel like I can run around, I still can sit in pass protection and I can still get tackles. I think it’s just a safer way of playing. Maybe at this age I can’t run down field….it’s not that I can’t, it’s maybe I shouldn’t go out and continue to knock people off 15, 20 yards down field. You know, I’m going to have to pick and give and take with my pass blocking. But as long as it’s in the back field, it’s going to be mano-y-mano; if it’s down the field I’m going to have to find another way to spring people.”

On his bad relationship with Coach Zorn and if he thinks he might still be in D.C. were Coach Shanahan to have been the coach a year or two earlier:

“I do. I just think that when you’re in a city for so long….around year four or year five of my career in D.C., I think I was the solution, and all of a sudden when you’re the solution and everybody whats you to be the solution and feels you’re the solution and you’re going to carry, all of a sudden you’re 6-7, I became the problem. And once you become the problem of an organization where in my eyes I kind of consider myself the mainstay…if you look my time I was in Washington, you take away the three years I was hurt, all were 1300 or better yard seasons. So every time I got hurt two consecutive years, I was the problem, I was keeping us from moving on. So I just think it became a bittersweet moment in D.C. And the fans due to the media portraying me as the problem and as the bad guy when I think I gave my heart to a city and to an organization. I think I did everything I was asked, but in some peoples’ eyes it’s not enough. For myself, my time was up in D.C., and I don’t have any bad feelings or ill will towards anyone. And when I talked to Coach Shanahan I told him that. I just felt as if the organization was going in a different direction, and I didn’t want to be the blame. It was kind of hard to recover from the situation that I was in knowing that I had given it my all. And when you feel like you’ve given it your all, I don’t look back at D.C. with any regrets. My situation with Coach Zorn, it just didn’t pan out with me and him.”

Listen here to Portis with Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban on 980 ESPN DC

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