- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

As promised, Clinton Portis was at Redskin Park yesterday morning — and not his South Florida home — for the Washington Redskins’ first day of voluntary workouts.

And as coach Joe Gibbs hoped, Sean Taylor also was present. Taylor’s trial on felony assault charges is scheduled for April 10 in Miami. Taylor refused to attend last year’s offseason activities.

Portis and Taylor were two of several prominent players, including newcomers Antwaan Randle El, Andre Carter and Brandon Lloyd and holdovers Santana Moss, Mark Brunell and Carlos Rogers, who were present for the start of activities. The team said there were no surprise no-shows, but some players had excused absences, and others are playing in NFL Europe.

Portis, who set a Redskins single-season record with 1,516 yards rushing last year, said he wasn’t just casually monitoring the Redskins’ free agent activities.

“I was in deeper than that,” he said. “Even during the season, I would talk to guys standing on the sideline. Brandon Lloyd, when they talked about free agents or guys that were available, I thought he would be one of the best pickups of the year. Every season, he has the most spectacular off-balance catches on balls that were supposed to be uncatchable.”

Lloyd was acquired in a trade with San Francisco, and the Redskins added Randle El from Pittsburgh to bolster the receiving corps.

“That’s what we were missing, and that’s what we needed,” Portis said. “We’ve added now, and if they can produce like they did in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, we’re going to be the team to beat.

“Coming out of the draft, I thought there were two players that got cheated — me and Randle El. The production he’s had in college, I thought we were two of the most underrated players in the draft.”

Portis threw two passes last year, completing one for a touchdown. He may have competition when the gadget play is called this year because Randle El is a former college quarterback and is 14-for-16 passing with two touchdowns in his NFL career.

“I’m still going to throw my one or two touchdowns a year,” he said. “Maybe he’ll throw one to me.”

Although he’s set as the starting running back, Portis tried in vain to convince Edgerrin James to join the Redskins. James signed a four-year, $30 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

“I kept calling E.J. to come up here, and we would have had one of the most dangerous backfields ever,” he said. “Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen co-existed. I told him to sign for less money, and he wouldn’t have to do as much work. We would have run into the record books.”

Portis said he hasn’t spoken with LaVar Arrington since he parted ways with the Redskins earlier this month. Arrington remains a free agent and is expected to make a second visit to the Miami Dolphins this week.

“We lost LaVar, so we have to find a way to rebound,” Portis said. “Somebody has to step in and fill his shoes because I felt an unhealthy LaVar was still a dangerous player. He wasn’t healthy [in 2005] but he would have gotten better and brought that spark back to the team.

“I talked to him before it happened when he called me one morning, and he was playing around about it, and I was like, ‘Man, stop playing.’ A week or two later, it happened for real.”

The Redskins made a whirlwind of signings/trades earlier this month but not a replacement for Arrington. Which made Chris Clemons happy.

“I’m really glad — now I know I have the opportunity to be one of the starters this year,” Clemons said. “I’ve been told I’ll get a shot. There are plenty of us to go around, and I hope to be one of those guys.”

Clemons missed the final regular-season game and both playoff games with a torn medial collateral ligament but was cleared to resume full activities in late February. He said yesterday he will be moving from backup strong-side linebacker to the weak-side spot vacated by Arrington.

Note — The Redskins received an extra seventh-round pick in next month’s draft because the value of the free agents they lost last year was higher than those they signed.

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