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Clinton Portis's life as a running back: Time and punishment
"If you take common folk and hit them across the arm with a bat, they're going to take the proper time to rest," he said at the time. " . . . You get four days to recover being hit by a bat. And then you get hit by another bat. Common folk get hit by a bat, they might not go to work for two weeks."
Portis has earned some criticism for divalike behavior, like his occasional ingratitude to his linemen and quarterbacks, and for playing overweight. But lack of toughness isn't one of his failings. Overall, he's probably given as much to the Redskins physically as he has taken financially. If you're inclined to resent his salary of almost $7.2 million this year, try to remember that. Even former coach Jim Zorn, who was often frustrated by him, said that when Portis is on the field, "Your head better be on a swivel. Somebody is gonna get knocked down."
Remember that in four seasons, he has had at least 320 carries. Remember that he ran for a club-record 1,516 yards in 2005, alternately avoiding tacklers with suave cuts and knocking them down like bowling pins. Remember how he dislocated his shoulder in a preseason game with the Cincinnati Bengals, when launched into a tackle, trying to stop an interception return. Remember how just two weeks ago against the Houston Texans he raced half the length of the field to explode on a block and open a pathway for Fred Davis, resulting in a 62-yard play.
For us spectators, the violence of the NFL is inevitably abstract, no matter how close our seats are to the field or how vivid the telecast. We view and feel the game at a remove, with small sense of what the men on the field experience.
Ever been rear-ended and hit your head on a windshield? Try enduring it 60 times in a row, once every minute or so.
"It can be the equivalent sometimes of driving a car into a brick wall," Stern says. "We're talking about 50 to 100-plus G force."
If Portis is able to return to the field this season, remember that. And appreciate every last yard he gives you.