Clinton Portis started off in Washington in a blaze of glory. His first carry as a Redskin came in the 2004 season opener at FedEx Field and it went for 64 yards and a touchdown. Portis’ Redskins career and the Joe Gibbs II era was off to a glorious start.
His last carry in the NFL was not bathed in much glory. It came in Week 10 of the 2010 season at LP Field in Nashville. Portis had missed the previous five games trying to recover from a groin injury. With 1:29 left in the first half, he took a handoff from Donovan McNabb and gained three yards off of left guard.
He got up but he immediately headed to the sidelines. It was apparent that the groin was bothering him again. The Redskins put him on injured reserve soon after that and he was released in March of 2011.
According to reports Portis tried out for a few NFL teams but he never did sign with one of them. Today he announced is retirement at a news conference at Redskins Park. Portis was clearly emotional during parts of a talk that lasted nearly 30 minutes.
“I think I had a great career on and off the field,” he said. I was truly blessed to play for two great organizations.”
Portis played his first two years in the NFL under Mike Shanahan in Denver. When Joe Gibbs, who Portis said was one of his favorite people, came to Washington in 2004 one of his first moves was to engineer a controversial trade that sent perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for Portis.
The knock on Portis was that he skipped practice too much and didn’t work hard enough in the offseason. And maybe he could have been better. Perhaps some of those 1300-yard seasons could have been 1500-yard seasons and the years where he gained 1500 or more could have been truly special.
The criticism didn’t bother him. “The negativity made me a man,” said Portis.
It is hard to see Portis getting much more out of his body than he did. He had 2,230 rushing attempts in his career, including four seasons with 325 or more carries in a five-year span.
And you can’t forget the wear and tear he created while dishing out punishment to blitzing linebackers. He may not have been the best overall running back in the business but none were better when it came to pass protection. Rarely would a game go by when he wouldn’t stonewall someone trying to come in and do harm to his quarterback. Most games, it was more than one.
“He blocked and played physical football like no one else,” said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder
His career numbers were good but what Redskins fans will remember most about him, besides the costumes he wore to press conferences during the 2005 season, are the two season-ending stretches where Portis put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs.
The first was in 2005. The Redskins had lost to the Chargers to fall to 5-6. Everyone knew they had to win out to get into the playoffs. They did it an Portis led the way, gaining over 100 yards in five straight games as the Redskins won five straight games.
They needed a similar miracle in 2007 and this time the mountain seemed even taller. Sean Taylor, one of Portis’ best friends on the team, was murdered in his home in late November. The day before his funeral, they lost to the Bills to fall to 5-7.
Portis was not the statistical leader during the four-game winning streak they pulled off in Taylor’s honor but he served as the emotional leader. Against Dallas in the season finale he scored on a 23-yard run and lifted up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt honoring Taylor.
“I can’t think of a team that won a Super Bowl that had a better bond than us, on those 2005 and 2007 teams that I played on,” said Portis.