Despite having the latter portions of his own career derailed by a series of injuries, including one to his head, former Redskins great Clinton Portis has been an outspoken critic of new rules meant to protect players.
In a pair of radio interviews, Portis argued that this new rule would cause more injuries, that it would continue the NFL’s transformation into a pass-all-the-time enterprise, and that the league will one day resemble flag football.
“I mean, you get concussions,” he told Danny Rouhier and Holden Kushner on 106.7 The Fan. (Audio here.) “That’s part of the game. You can’t prevent every injury….Now all of a sudden you’re asking smaller guys to keep their chest exposed, and somebody hits you on your chest; now you’ve got the sternum, you’ve got ribs, you’ve got all of that area that you need to protect. So what’s gonna be the next thing?….They’re trying to protect so much in the game, that you might as well turn it into flag football.”
The running back made a similar argument on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“I don’t think the existence of the NFL will be gone in 30 years, but I think the NFL as we know it today and in past years will be gone,” he said. “I think you’re gonna see more of a flag football-type of game in 30 years. It’s gonna be so [unrecognizable] to the eyes of guys who can say I did it in the trenches. The Jack Tatums of the game will be forgotten about, because who do you compare in flag football?….Now all of a sudden you’ve got flag football. That’s just my perception. I think this game has been converted to the quarterback. The only topic of conversation is having a quarterback. It don’t matter who the running back is.”
On 106.7, Portis was asked if he at least understands the NFL’s motivation of trying to protect players, and he wouldn’t even go that far.
“I don’t, because there’s no way you can protect guys playing football,” he said. “There’s no way to protect guys playing a violent game. That’s the game of football. It’s violent. There’s no way to protect yourself. That’s what makes it America’s game. It’s like a gladiator sport, and the toughest team usually wins, or the toughest team is what people come out to appreciate. Now all of a sudden, you’re asking guys to kind of go out and play flag football.
“You know, over the tenure of my career there were so many identity things taken away,” he continued. “The individuality, the Joe Horn and Chad Ochocinco, the Terrell Owens, the celebration, that went first. Then the team celebration went. Then the hitting defenseless guys, the jamming receivers. It kind of takes all the fear away from the game. You’re taking away the individuality and the fear….
“How can Adrian Peterson run over people in the open field when people don’t fear him anymore?” Portis asked. “They know you can’t run over them in the open field. How can he lower his shoulder? You can’t run over me. That’s basically what it comes down to. When you lower your shoulder, you’ve got to lower your head. I’ve never seen anybody just drop a shoulder without dropping their head to lay boom. It goes hand in hand. To lower your shoulder you’ve got to hold your head down. So the violent running of Adrian Peterson that had everybody in awe this season is now taken away.”
And Portis argued, repeatedly, that more injuries would happen by asking players to change what they’ve always done.
“I just think this rule is going to create more injuries,” he said on SiriusXM. “You can’t play football trying to protect yourself. That’s known. It’s something you’ve been taught all your life: put your chin to your shoulder pad at contact, and now you can’t do that….I think you’re gonna start seeing a lot of sternums and collar bones and jaws being broke, and those particular injuries — stuff that you’re not normally [used to] in the NFL — when you’re running upright, straight up.”