Clinton Portis in Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb for Washington Redskins

Matthew BrownCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2011

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08:  Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins watches from the sidelines after suffering a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins parted ways with veteran running back Clinton Portis in a move that came as no surprise to fans and experts. After battling injuries for much of the past two seasons, Portis finished his tenure with the team on injured reserve. Portis's refusal to restructure his contract played a part in his release, but he wasn't likely to play a big part in the team's future regardless.

Despite a rough ending to his career with the Redskins, Portis will go down as one of the best running backs in team history.

When the Redskins traded cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick to the Denver Broncos in 2004 for Portis, many were skeptical about the team's intentions. They gave up a valuable pick and a future Hall of Famer for a running back coming out of the original Mike Shanahan running back factory. Portis had already rushed for 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, but many wondered about his viability in the smash-mouth style of offense run by Joe Gibbs.

Portis quieted many skeptics with his first regular season carry as a Redskin, a 64-yard touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a hard-fought debut season with the Redskins that featured 1,315 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Portis dedicated himself to adding muscle to deal with the rigors of the Gibbs rushing attack. He came back in 2005-2006 with his third career 1,500-yard season, along with 11 touchdowns. His 1,516 yards broke Stephen Davis's franchise rushing record of 1,432 yards set in 2001.

It would prove to be his best year with the Redskins, which included an improbable five-game winning streak to end the season that propelled Washington to a playoff berth.

The beginning of the end would be a separated shoulder suffered in the first preseason game of the 2006 season. He played in the first game of the season and seven others before suffering a hand injury and ending the season on injured reserve. He totaled 523 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games.

He would rebound over the next two seasons, rushing for 1,262 and 1,487 yards in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Though two years removed from a separated shoulder and a broken hand, Portis would find the injury bug too much to avoid over his final two years. He played just 13 games over the last two seasons, rushing for just over 700 yards and just three touchdowns. He suffered a concussion in 2009 and a torn groin in 2010, both of which landed him on injured reserve.

A career that offered big plays, colorful media sessions and polarizing remarks about various facets of the team ended with a whimper and an ESPN Ticker entry.

Who can forget Kid Bro Sweets, Southeast Jerome, Sheriff Gonna Getcha or Mr. Angel Southeast Romie Rome? Portis endeared himself to fans with his weekly segments during the high point of his career in Washington. He was entertaining and productive, but his time was short, and soon his personality wore on fans.

He was particularly vocal during Jim Zorn's two-year stay with the team and questioned the necessity of preseason for a star like himself, while not practicing full weeks and throwing others under the proverbial bus for the team's shortcomings.

His ultimate release stemmed from a failure to re-negotiate his contract to more reasonable terms. His recent injuries meant he wasn't going to be able to sustain the rigors of a starting running back's load, and $8.54 million for next season as a backup is too steep a price.

Washington had no choice but to part ways with Portis, and while he believes he can still produce as a starter, his recent seasons beg to differ.

Portis will go down as one of the best running backs in Redskins history, and for that we thank him. No one wanted it to end the way it did, but all good things must come to an end. He finished just 77 yards shy of 10,000 yards and 648 yards shy of John Riggins's Redskins rushing record of 7,472.

He was a punishing blocker, a fast and powerful runner and a vocal leader, for better or for worse. He may not be everyone's favorite player, but no one can deny that he gave 100 percent every down he was on the field. The future for Washington rests with Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams, but they'll have their work cut out for them in trying to replace Portis at his best.