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Redskins call it a season for Portis
Concussion could end star running back's career

By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clinton Portis can't say with certainty whether he'll be in the Redskins' backfield next season, but team officials have decided he won't be returning this year.

The Redskins placed their star running back on the season-ending injured-reserve list Tuesday because of lingering problems stemming from a concussion he suffered last month. Though the team expects Portis to eventually return from the injury, Portis said in a radio interview, "If it's my time, I think I had a great career."

"I think I'll get well. I think I have to go and really put the time into rehabbing and continuing to do what the doctors say," Portis said during his weekly appearance on "The John Thompson Show" on ESPN 980 Tuesday. "But at the same time, man, to have the opportunity to play for eight years and play, compete and not miss many games and to carry the organization, I'm thankful for Mr. [Daniel] Snyder and Coach [Joe] Gibbs bringing me to the Redskins and the Broncos drafting me.

"If it's my time and I look back today, I think I have had a great career."

Portis traveled to Pittsburgh on Monday to begin a two-day evaluation process under the supervision of concussion specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. After physicians determined that Portis had not improved enough to resume full participation in football activity, the Redskins decided to end his season. Portis has experienced vision problems since he suffered the concussion Nov. 8 at Atlanta but said he thought his condition had been improving.

"Once I couldn't play the Saints game, all of a sudden you get that question, 'Are they gonna play him?' " Portis said. "I came up here hoping to get cleared and start resuming activity. The doctor said he wasn't going to do it. He didn't like what he saw. It's life, man."

Portis, who previously suffered a concussion during his final game at the University of Miami in 2002, said he felt his vision was sufficient but one eye tested weaker than the other, and "the doctor feared if I took another hit like that it could get worse."

The early end to Portis's season highlights the league's growing sensitivity to concussions. Just last week, the NFL instituted new measures that require independent neurologists to examine concussed players, in addition to stricter guidelines governing when a player can return to action.

The Redskins made the Portis announcement in an early afternoon news release. Coach Jim Zorn was not made available for comment.

"After consulting with our medical staff and other specialists, Clinton's prognosis is good and we expect him to make a full recovery and return to the Redskins," Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, said in the release.

Portis's agent Drew Rosenhaus said he spoke with the doctors who evaluated his client and was told that Portis would need a few more weeks before he's completely symptom-free. Rosenhaus used his Twitter account Tuesday to say he expects Portis to fully recover and to play again as a Redskin.

"The decision to place Clinton on IR is purely a precaution, and he will be ready for 2010 and beyond," he tweeted. "We are very optimistic about his Redskins future."

But Portis didn't necessarily express the same optimism. In the radio interview, Portis did say he would like to return to the Redskins next season, though that decision won't ultimately be his to make. The Redskins take their 3-9 record to Oakland this weekend with uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of Zorn and others on the coaching staff, in the front office and across the roster.

"Do I think there's going to be change? I do. If I'm part of that change, will I be sad and devastated? I won't," Portis said. "I think I'm appreciative of everything Mr. Snyder and the Washington Redskins done for me and the opportunities they gave me.

"I'm 28, man. I'm not gonna be devastated, 'Oh, man, football is over.' I enjoyed it. I had fun doing it. I gave everything I had doing it. I did it to the best of my ability. When I look back, the day that I sit down and look back on my career, I think I will enjoy the highlights. If I get to continue and I'm not in D.C. and I got to go to somebody else, I will give it my all there as well."

Portis is one of only six Redskins believed to have guaranteed contracts for next season. He last renegotiated his deal in March 2008, receiving a signing bonus of almost $9.4 million. Under the terms of that deal, in addition to the signing bonus, Portis will have been paid more than $2.35 million in salaries and bonuses by the end of this season. Most of Portis's 2010 base salary of almost $7.2 million is guaranteed, and he is also due roster and workout bonuses totaling about $507,000.

Many in the league believe 2010 will be an uncapped year, but the current system and its rules still are in place. If the Redskins were to release Portis before June 1, 2010, they could face a cap hit of as much as $14.8 million, according to league sources familiar with Portis's contract and the Redskins' cap situation.

The Redskins also have "offset" language on the guaranteed portion of his contract. If Washington released Portis and he joined another team next season, the Redskins would receive a credit against his guarantee for any additional salary.

Portis finishes the season with 494 rushing yards, just one touchdown and only one game of 100 or more yards. This marks only the second time in his career he's gone on IR; a hand injury ended his season on Nov. 11, 2006. He is the 10th player the team has placed on injured reserve this season and the eighth on offense.

"The best thing for him right now is to make sure his vision is back clearly," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "With where we're at in the season, it just didn't make sense to risk it with his health. What they're doing makes sense for Clinton's health."

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