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Redskins Look Back, Look Ahead At Luncheon


The Redskins gave out their three Player of the Year awards for the 2008 season Thursday at the annual Welcome Home luncheon and coach Jim Zorn set out three goals for the campaign ahead, the last of them being a victory in the Super Bowl.

At least 800 people packed the ballroom of the The Ritz-Carlton in Tyson's Corner for the presentations and silent and live auctions that raised money for the Redskins Charitable Foundation and the Redskins Alumni Association.

Honored were running back Clinton Portis (offense), linebacker London Fletcher (defense) and retired receiver James Thrash (special teams).


Clinton Portis takes the podium.
(Ned Dishman Photo)

Former Redskins tight end Doc Walker served as master of ceremonies.

Portis' Offensive Player of the Year Award was presented by George Starke, the tackle who was, as Walker said, the "ring leader" of the famed Hogs of the 1980s and early '90s. In his tribute to Portis, Starke underscored the importance of moving the football on the ground.

"If you can't run, you can't win," said Starke, who played with Larry Brown and John Riggins, among others.

Portis, 28, ranks sixth among active players in rushing yards (9,202) and is second all-time behind Riggins on the Redskins' list with 6,103 in his five Washington seasons.

Portis, in turn, thanked his offensive line, while noting how much criticism that group took in 2008 when a 6-2 start faded to an 8-8 finish.

"They catch a lot of heat but they do a great job," Portis said.

Fletcher was honored as Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He has made more than 100 tackles for 10 consecutive seasons and started 135 consecutive games.

"That's the real tribute, to do it week in and week out," said his presenter Neal Olkewicz, a former Redskins middle linebacker.

Fletcher said the '08 season was "emotional" for him because of this loss of his father in late September."

"It was the first year I played without my dad around," the 12-year pro said. "He and my mom had always supported me."

Fletcher said he originally had planned to win this award again but changed his mind after seeing the way free-agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth wreaked havoc in practice.

"Two out of three ain't bad," Fletcher joked.

Thrash, retired after 12 seasons, now works for the Redskins in player development. Brig Owens, a former defensive back, did the honors for Thrash.


George Starke, Brig Owens, London Fletcher, James Thrash,
Clinton Portis and Brig Owens. (Ned Dishman Photo)

Owens reflected on George Allen's emphasis on special teams. Allen was the first to hire an assistant coach dedicated to special teams play.

"The Redskins set that that standard that the rest of the league copies to this day," Owens said.

Thrash thanked "all the guys for such a great memory that I'll have forever."

Zorn, in his second season as the Redskins coach, enumerated three goals for the '09 team and set the bar high.

"We have to win the NFC East," he said. "To win the NFC East, no game is bigger than our first against the (New York) Giants. We've got to beat them twice and then the Dallas Cowboys twice and the Philadelphia Eagles twice.

"Our second goal is to win the NFC championship. And if we win the NFC, we're there to win the Super Bowl. That's our third goal."

Before any of that can be achieved, the Redskins play two more preseason games and must cut the roster from 80 to 53. They take on the New England Patriots on Friday night at FedExField in the third preseason game, which will be televised nationally by CBS at 8 p.m. ET.

Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on Redskins Nation, airing nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, both in the Washington, D.C. area.

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