The Washington Redskins made the move that many NFL experts and burgundy and gold fans were expecting as they released running back Clinton Portis on Monday. So what’s does this anticipated cut mean for Portis? Can Portis walk the path of New York Jets’ running back LaDainian Tomlinson to rejuvenate his career with another team that is considered to be a Super Bowl contender or fall to the way side of the Jamal Anderson’s and the Shaun Alexander’s of the league?
Portis should feel as if he’s the luckiest football player in the NFL as a running back because the battered running back from Laurel, Mississippi still can be productive behind a better offensive line with a greater chance of winning at the age of 29, although he will turn 30 before the regular season starts.
The two-time Pro Bowl running back was definitely a work horse at the beginning of his career in Washington, after he was traded from the Denver Broncos in 2004. Along with his burst with power from the backfield and blocking ability, Portis quickly gain the respect and love from players and football fans around the country. As a Redskin, Portis played in 84 games (83 starts), finished second in franchise history in rushing yards at 6,824 on 1,667 rushing attempts and rushed for 46 touchdowns.
“Clinton provided excitement from the very first time he touched the ball as a Redskin and we were lucky to witness every ounce of energy, effort and passion he has given ever since,” said Redskins Owner Dan Snyder. “We have been through a lot both on and off of the field and we would like to wish him and his family the very best. He will always be a Redskin and go down as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.”
Despite his good deeds and the colorful characters he created like “Electra” and “Prime Minister Tah Mon” to name a few during press conferences, the popularity of Portis began to change after the 2008 season when as he started to compound nagging injuries and spoke out on radio shows against former head coach Jim Zorn and fan favorite, former Redskins’ linebacker, LaVar Arrington. Portis’ negative comments help create the clash between Zorn and him but it was later settled, however, Arrington slashed backed at Portis publicly and it’s unsure if they patched things up as former teammates.
Many football and NFL experts believed that Portis lost a step and was no good for the Redskins as the team struggled at having a solid running game for the past few seasons. Unfortunately, Portis’ performance has not been up to par, but it wasn’t because the former All-Pro didn’t want to play hard, it was the hard hits he sustained due to the lack of blocking up front. In fact, because of Portis, he suffered from a concussion for blocking a defender in 2009 against the Atlanta Falcons as a sign of his heart and passion, which ultimately caused him the season and his downfall as a Redskin.
“I would like to thank the organization,” said Portis. “Dan [Snyder] and Mike [Shanahan] were honest, straight-up people with me. I always appreciated the opportunity from Dan to play here. Being a Redskin was a special part of my life.
“Coming and being in that organization, I turned from a kid having fun to a man carrying responsibilities. I tried to put the world on my shoulders for Coach Gibbs and the Redskins fans.”
Portis has always been a stand-up guy and is well-respected around the league. He will have the opportunity to play for another team, but for a contender is the question. The New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers could use his services as they are Super Bowl contenders with decent offensive line play.
For every Anderson (former running back for the Atlanta Falcons) and Alexander (former running back for the Seattle Seahawks), who were among the NFL’s best backs when all of a sudden were knocked out of the food chain where teams around the league did not want them, there’s a Tomlinson, who wasn’t welcomed by his former squad, the San Diego Chargers, to find life with another club in which he was a valued success.
Veteran backs aren’t appreciated as much in today’s NFL due to the toll of hits they have sustained over the years and Portis, physically, can’t afford to play for a rebuilding team for that reason. Portis isn’t viewed in the same light as Tomlinson because at one point, the Jets’ back was considered the best offensive player in the league for a period of four to six seasons during the last decade. Is Portis worth the time and effort for a contending team? Portis’ health will answer that question later, but will his super agent, Drew Rosenhaus, out price him?
For the Redskins, it was a great move due their situation of not having a good offensive line, among other things, as they look to rebuild the front. The Redskins freed up some cap space after releasing Portis, but as Washington looks forward to put things in motion to become a winning team, showing the second-round draft pick from Miami in 2002 his walking papers was the best thing for the organization and him.
“I’ve known Clinton Portis since he entered the National Football League and will always respect the competitive drive, intensity and passion that he brought to the organization every day,” said Redskins’ executive vice president/head coach Mike Shanahan.