- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

Welcome to the Washington Redskins’ 2007 season, the Year of the Chip.

“I’m going to run with a chip on my shoulder from now on,” Clinton Portis said after rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown, following a preseason as a conscientious objector, in yesterday’s 16-13 season-opening overtime win against the Miami Dolphins at FedEx Field.

“If I don’t, then I am going to get that pat on my shoulder from you, and then you’re going to go behind my back and say get rid of him,” Portis told reporters. “So I’m going to continue to run with a chip on my shoulder.

“It’s cool,” said Portis, who missed most of last season with knee and shoulder injuries. “If not, I got a chip for you anyway.”

Great. I always wanted a chip, although I’m not sure what kind of chip Portis is talking about. Poker chip? Chip Lohmiller? Chip on “My Three Sons?”

Should Portis come up with a new character? Mr. Chips?

Of course, he’s not the one who should have the chip on his shoulder. The 91,000-plus crowd that has been showing up regularly at FedEx Field with great expectations only to suffer great disappointment in recent years are the ones who should be getting chips for their shoulders as they come into the stadium.

But, hey, the Redskins won yesterday, so chips for everyone. They’re on Portis.

With yesterday’s performance, the running back shredded the notion of training camp like a piece of wood in a wood chipper — unless you count riding the stationary bicycle — though he did not start the game that way. Portis said he was too pumped up in the first half, when he ran for just 17 yards on seven carries.

“In the warmups, I had to relax myself because I was so excited about being back on the field,” Portis said. “I kind of missed a couple of reads from being excited about wanting to make big plays. I came in at halftime, and I was talking to Ladell [Betts], and he told me to calm down, that I was going to be all right. I calmed down in the second half.”

So I am not sure how much the chip helped Portis as much as the Betts helped Portis.

The running back tandem, gaining a total of 157 yards against a tough Dolphins run defense, will have to be the blueprint for whatever success this team has this season, along with a strong defense and performances from quarterback Jason Campbell that don’t include the two interceptions he had yesterday.

Being able to switch between the two running backs gives Portis a chance to have fresh legs late in the game as he did yesterday, when he gained 50 yards in the final quarter and the five minutes of overtime.

“There has never been a problem between Ladell and me since I’ve been here,” Portis said. “The media wanted to blow it up because last year Ladell had a spectacular year and I got hurt. Me and Ladell watch out for each other and help each other. … He tells me what to look for, and I tell him what to look for.”

Both might have been looking for a place to hide after right tackle Jon Jansen went down early in the second quarter with a fractured dislocation of his right ankle. After all, this was an offensive line that was playing together for the first time since training camp opened. Chris Samuels was seeing his first game action after a knee ligament sprain the first week of training camp, and the team added left guard Pete Kendall in a trade with the New York Jets. The last thing the running game needed was an unstable line.

But undrafted ex-Maryland lineman Stephon Heyer, playing right tackle for the first time, stepped in and held his own — with a little help from his friends.

“Stephon stepped in and did a great job,” Portis said. “We actually ran behind him. I think Randy [Thomas, the right guard] really took care of him on that side.”

By the time the overtime started, the offensive line felt it had the defense on the ropes, Portis said.

“Chris Samuels and Pete marched down the field and said, ‘Come on, guys, they’re tired. Let’s keep driving, let’s keep pushing.’ ”

Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas was impressed by that push.

“They’ve got a good blocking team,” Thomas said. “They did a great job up front. I’ll give them that. They’re an aggressive team.”

Coach Joe Gibbs obviously loves something about Portis, and sometimes it has been maddening to tell exactly what it is. Yesterday Gibbs revealed it.

“For me, when you are out there, you have to look in a guy’s eyes, and you can kind of tell,” Gibbs said. “And with this guy, he knows how the game is supposed to be played.”

With a chip on your shoulder, obviously.

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