For Redskins' running game, Ryan Torain may be what the doctor ordered
Sunday, October 10, 2010; 12:45 AM
Jim Bamburg remembers his first conversation with Ryan Torain's mother. Back then, Torain was a gangly but fast teenager at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, outside Kansas City, Kan. And Raedell Shinn was a protective mother, worried about her son's welfare.
"She asked a lot of questions," said Bamburg, the school's head football coach. "She was just worried about him getting hurt. I remember her saying she'd rather he played basketball or baseball. I told her football could be dangerous, but I thought Ryan would be okay."
Shinn was reluctant - "It's such a rough game," she still says today - but she allowed Torain to join the team. Sure enough, Torain would eventually get hurt - often, it turned out. Foot, knee, elbow, knee again. His body always recovered. His career, however, was slower to bounce back.
Torain, 24, will finally get his opportunity Sunday when the Washington Redskins face the Green Bay Packers. Torain will start in place of injured Clinton Portis. His trip to the Redskins' backfield was a long one, filled with bumps, bruises and operating tables.
If he can hold down the spot, he would not only provide a jolt for a Redskins' backfield that has lacked a consistent performer - Portis has just one 100-yard game in the Redskins' past 25 - but he also could become the latest running back that Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan has plucked from nowhere and pushed into the spotlight.
As Denver's head coach, Shanahan found Terrell Davis in the sixth round of the NFL draft. Olandis Gary was hiding in the fourth round, and Mike Anderson in the sixth. All three registered at least one 1,000-yard season for the Broncos.
The Redskins' first-year coach selected Torain in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, but Torain hasn't had a chance for even a sniff at his true potential until this month. His career to this point has been marked mostly by the injuries that have sidelined him.
Torain never started more than eight games in a season at either Butler (Kan.) Community College or Arizona State. With the Broncos, he appeared in only two games, finishing 2008 on injured reserve and then accepting an injury settlement the following year upon his release. With no teams interested in his services, he sat out 2009 and began this season on Washington's practice squad.
No one seems to question his talent. He just needs good health and an opportunity, they say. "The kid is due for some good luck," said James Christian, Torain's former running backs coach at Arizona State.
Humble in every way
From locker to locker at Redskins Park, the same words keep popping up: Torain is quiet and nice and humble. "The only thing I hear from him is, 'Thanks,'" said center Casey Rabach. "'Thanks. Good job. Good blocking.'"
It makes his mother laugh. Shinn remembers Torain and his brother Chris wrestling, bouncing all over the house and sapping every ounce of her energy. She raised the two alone.
"I still talk to my father," Torain says. "But he wasn't always there. My mom, she did everything for me and my brother."