Old school: Redskins RB coach gets Portis duty

Bobby Turner is 100 percent old school, right down to the thick

gray sweat shirt and sweat pants he wears at every practice – even

in the stifling heat and humidity of a Washington Redskins training


Given the high ego level of a group that includes Clinton

Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, he might be the one person

who can keep the Washington Redskins running backs under


”When you have that much testosterone in one room, you’ve got

to have somebody who can deal with it,” Portis said this week. ”I

think Bobby Turner is the perfect guy for it.”

When Mike Shanahan accepted the job as head coach in January, he

went to great lengths to get the 61-year-old Turner to come along.

The pair spent 14 seasons together with the Denver Broncos,

churning out top-notch seasons from a slew of seemingly

interchangeable running backs, including Terrell Davis, Reuben

Droughns, Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson and Portis. Shanahan had to

offer Turner the title of assistant head coach – along with running

backs coach – to pry Turner away from the Broncos.

”Bobby demands perfection,” Shanahan said, ”and guys love

Bobby because there is no nonsense and they know he knows what he’s

talking about.”

Albert Haynesworth has stolen the headlines with his

will-he-or-won’t-he pass the conditioning test drama, but the No. 2

intriguing question at training camp concerns the aging star power

the Redskins have assembled at running back. Portis and Parker are

29, and Johnson is 30. All three have been star ball carriers, but

all three are about that age when the numbers start to decline.

Practice and preseason games will determine the eventual pecking

order – or, for that matter, whether all three make the final

roster. In the meantime, Turner is laying down the law the old

school way – by mixing firm words with funny stories about the good

ol’ days.

”He provides a lot of the comedic relief,” said Johnson, who

played for Joe Paterno at Penn State and signed as a free agent

with the Redskins in the offseason. ”He always brings up the

Denver old school days. He sounds so much like Joe. Joe never

brought up the ’80s and ’90s; he always brought up the ’70s and

’60s. Coach Turner always brings up Terrell and the other


Turner fully embraces his old school reputation.

”No question about it,” Turner said. ”If you want to put a

couple of more ‘old, old, old’ to it. It’s about run blocking,

tackling, ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ being respectful, busting your tail, playing

the game hard, nothing less.”

Portis appears to be taking the message to heart. Known for his

dislike of offseason workouts and in-season practices, the

sometimes moody and often flamboyant running back was a steady

participant in the team’s conditioning program this year. And, of

course, the additions of Johnson and Parker have put him on notice

that, in the Shanahan-Turner world, even a veteran with 9,600 yards

rushing can be made expendable unless he’s willing to follow the


”That’s why we’ve had success playing a lot of younger

players” in Denver, Turner said. ”They’re open-minded, more

receptive. And if an older player can do it, more power to him. And

if he can’t, then he’s taken himself out of the loop.”

Turner coached Portis with the Broncos in 2002-03, when Portis

had back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons.

”I never wanted to change Clinton – I want to him work,”

Turner said. ”I want him to play on game day and I want him to

practice hard. I have never tried to change his personality. I want

him to play within the rules, but I don’t get into guys’ personal

lives. I want him here. I want him on time, and I want him

practicing hard. The bottom line is if he does that, because he

does have ability, we’re going to win games.”

That said, neither Portis nor any of the running backs are about

to emulate Turner’s all-sweats practice attire. Turner says his

tolerance for heat dates from his college days at Indiana State,

when he would work in the blast furnace of a steel mill to help pay

his way through school.

”That’s hot. This,” he said, gesturing with his arms on

another humid Virginia day, ”is a piece of cake.”

Notes: First-round pick LT Trent Williams had some tightness in

his hip during practice, but Shanahan said it wasn’t serious. …

WR Mike Furrey (concussion), RT Jammal Brown (hip) and WR Malcolm

Kelly (hamstring) are still sidelined.