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Portis Moves On After Memorable Seven Years


Thanks, Clinton.

Seven seasons with the Redskins, none of them boring.

You shouldered the load and carried this team when required. You brought some levity with your costumes and interviews. You performed at a high level for a team that made the playoffs just twice during your tenure and you gained more than a few tough yards.

Sorry, Clinton. Wish it didn't have to end this way.

The Redskins released Clinton Portis on Monday, in a move long expected and hinted at strongly last week by head coach Mike Shanahan at the Indianapolis scouting combine. Age (Portis turns 30 on Sept. 1), injury history, wear and tear and a high salary create huge obstacles to retaining the popular running back.

Time exacts its toll on all players, but especially running backs, and few of those enjoy monster seasons once they pass 30. Oh, there's always the occasional resurgent burst, as LaDainian Tomlinson exhibited with the New York Jets in 2010, but the general rule for backs is the one that prevailed for all of society in the 1960s – Don't trust anyone over 30.

As of this day, Portis ranks second all-time among Redskins rushers and he has 9,923 career yards, accrued here and in two seasons with the Denver Broncos, 26th best in NFL history. He caught 247 passes but essentially disappeared as a receiver the last two years because of his value as a blocker in blitz pickup.

He also disappeared because of injuries. A concussion in 2009 had him inactive for four games and on injured reserve for the final four. In 2010, in his reunification season with Shanahan, Portis earned the starting job but his body would not let him keep it. A groin injury sidelined him for five games and then an abdominal tear that required surgery finished him, limiting him to five games and a career-low of 227 rushing yards.

In nine seasons, Portis rushed for more than 1,000 yards six times and only missed that mark in the three in which he suffered injuries.

No one should forget what he meant to that Redskins playoff drive in 2005, when the club won its last five games to clinch a wild-card berth post and post a 10-6 record. Portis put the team on his back and on those famously sloped shoulders and carried it to its first postseason appearance since the 1999 season.

He rushed for 573 yards and six touchdowns in that span. He averaged 26 carries per game and 114.6 yards and finished the season with nine 100-yard games.

Thanks for the memories. Thanks for making that run at John Riggins' club record of 7,472 yards. Portis ends at 6,824 in a Redskins uniform. Thanks for giving us Southeast Jerome and some other memorable masquerades that brought some levity.

Thanks for being the complete player, the type of back who would do the dirty work of blocking. Running backs coach Bobby Turner, who also worked with Portis in Denver, has often talked of how the thing that first caught his eye when he scouted Portis at the University of Miami was the blocking.

Regrets? Well, there are always a few.

In years where there was a more lax atmosphere than Shanahan allows, Portis took part in fewer practices, spent less time on conditioning, added some weight and exchanged wiggle for jiggle. The mind's eye replays that career-long 78-yard run against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 when Portis simply seemed to no longer have a top gear, not that flat-out speed was ever his marker.

Portis never, in his Redskins years, matched the numbers he put up in Denver before the Broncos traded him for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft pick. That deal went down seven years ago this coming Friday.

Portis averaged 5.5 yards a carry each of his first two seasons and his churned out his career high of 1,591 yards in his second year. He surpassed 1,500 once with the Redskins, in that memorable '05 campaign (1,516). In Denver, Portis rushed for touchdowns in double digits twice. With the Redskins? Twice. He made the Pro Bowl twice, once with each team.

In a lengthy and candid radio interview that lasted more than 30 minutes, Portis said he was prepared to move on and wanted to be the feature back elsewhere. He would not accept the idea that he might be a backup or a role player.

We can only wish him well in that hope and job search.

Thanks, CP. See you down the road.

Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at and follow him on

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