Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis defended former University of Miami teammates Santana Moss and Sean Taylor yesterday for not participating in voluntary offseason workouts this spring.
Portis said he is certain that Taylor will be present for the start of training camp in July and believes his absence is not related to contract issues. He also said that he does not expect to see Moss until he has signed a new, long-term contract.
Coach Joe Gibbs reiterated during a news conference yesterday at Redskins Park that Moss, a wide receiver, and Taylor, a safety, should be attending, and that he is "disappointed" by their absences. Both are under contract for 2005 -- Moss has one year left worth about $450,000 while Taylor is just one year into a long-term deal worth a maximum of $40 million -- and the Redskins have been speaking regularly with Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for both players. Gibbs said he has spoken to Moss "numerous times," and is confident he has been working out daily in South Florida, while saying again yesterday that he still has not spoken to Taylor despite leaving phone messages for him.
Portis, who saw Taylor over the weekend at an annual charity event he hosts in Gainesville, Fla., said the defensive back simply needs an escape from football for a while.
"Any time you go into a season such as we had, and you're used to winning," Portis said, "and you come into a long NFL season, you've got money and going through all the bad pub [publicity] he took, you just need time away from football. I think Sean's in shape. He looked good. He's training. He's going to be in shape and you've got to get away from football sometimes.
"I said that to Coach last year. I think that happened to me, getting traded being here [last offseason], moving away when it comes time for football season you kind of lose your fire. The passion ain't there. It's not as excited as if you were away from it, so I think Sean will come back with high intensity. As long as he's not getting in trouble, let him go out and have fun, and when he comes back he knows what his requirements are going to be."
Portis, who received an eight-year, $50 million contract after being acquired from Denver last year, said he is not surprised that Moss chose to stay away from Washington while his new contract is hashed out. Many former Miami players have taken a similar tack in recent years, and Portis said their play in the NFL has warranted hefty raises.
"There's a lot of guys putting up big numbers, and everybody getting paid from the University of Miami," Portis said. "So you've got to get your money, man."
Portis said he has been talking to Moss -- who was acquired from the New York Jets a few weeks ago for top wide receiver Laveranues Coles -- almost daily. "I'm like, 'Man, we are doing the same thing you're doing in Miami -- running and working out,' " Portis said. Portis also joked that once his former Miami teammates arrive, he might try to finagle a few extra days for himself.
"If we get those other two Miami guys up here and get some of this heat taken off me," Portis said, "I can go and slide in there with Coach Gibbs and [owner Dan] Snyder and ask if I can miss a week or two."