All posts in football

28Apr

going 5 hole: the draft

Five thoughts on the day after the NFL draft:

1. The Washington Redskins continue to defy logic. All too often, 31 teams have a way of thinking and then there’s the Redskins. When 31 teams decide it’s best to build a championship contender through the draft, the ‘Skins happily toss away picks by the dozens justifying the tactic by saying they’d rather have a proven veteran commodity rather than rolling the dice on a rookie. But then that “proven” player ends up being T.J. Duckett or Brandon Lloyd, meaning they might as well have set the draft pick on fire.

This year Vinny Cerrato and the powers that be opted to give this NFL draft thing a shot. They did their best to keep their draft picks heading into the weekend and promise to actually have a draft board this year. Once the draft began, Redskins fans all held their breath to see how this “new” tactic would play out. Much to our surprise, the front office seemingly made a great move when they traded out of the 21st pick and acquired some extra ammo for their newfound draft strategy. Unfortunately, once they got those picks, the ‘Skins front office couldn’t help themselves. As I stated in my day one recap, the team drafted three pass catchers in the span of 16 picks to go on an offense with plenty of name players (Moss, Randel El, Cooley, Sellers and Portis) who already come into a game expecting to touch the ball from time to time. Not making a move to bolster either the offensive or defensive line with any of the three second-round picks, regardless of how many receivers you had ranked as “first-round talent,” is negligible. At this point, Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas spend as much time on the Redskins sideline as I do. Wouldn’t it be wise to have someone — anyone — under the age of 30 qualified to play on the offensive line this season?

2. The second day of the draft was kinder to the Redskins, if for no other reason than they didn’t draft another wide out. With the 96th overall pick, the ‘Skins drafted Chad Rinehart, an offensive lineman from Northern Iowa. I heard Mike Mayock, the NFL Network’s answer to Mel Kiper, had this guy as a seventh-round caliber player, but that should matter to anyone in D.C. The team brought is a 6’5″, 320 lb. country boy who Joe Bugel should be able to mold into a guard for the future. With their fourth rounder, the ‘Skins selected my personal favorite player from this weekend, J.T. Tryon, a cornerback from Arizona State. He’s 5’9″ and 190 lbs., but he already thinks he can go toe-to-toe with Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens and basically said he didn’t care who the Redskins had as cornerbacks on the roster, he’s coming in to win the job. My buddy, Papa John, is convinced he’ll be the first rookie ducktaped to the goalposts during minicamp.

3. Two other players of note worth mentioning — the Redskins picked up both Georgia Tech punter Durant Brooks and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan in the sixth round. I love the punter pick if for no other reason than it very well mean the end of Derrick Frost Era. Frosty, while a “highly” enjoyable interview (unless you ask him, like I did, if the reason he still has a job is because he has naked photos of someone in the front office), scares the hell out of me every time he lines up to punt. You honestly never know if he’s going to punt it 60 yards or six. That’s probably because he doesn’t know either.

About the new quarterback — he’s Jordan Palmer with a new name. A year ago the ‘Skins took a flyer on Carson Palmer’s brother in hopes of developing him from a raw talent into an NFL quarterback. He didn’t last because Mark Brunell was still collecting his pension … er … paycheck here. This year, they took Brennan, who set 21 NCAA passing records in his three years over the rainbow. On the one hand, Brennan comes into a safe situation, with no expectations and a head coach who knows a thing or two about getting the best from his QBs. On the other, this guy is a short, injury-prone, side-armed quarterback who finds himself on the wrong side of the law from time to time. We have Jason Campbell showing up to neighborhood birthday parties, not Pacman Jones making it rain. If this guy even shows up to a meeting late, I’d send him on the next bus to Hawaii. Besides, if were up to me, I would have drafted Dennis Dixon, the Oregon quarterback who was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round. That kid is a flat out playmaker.

4. Stepping away from the Redskins draft, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the top three drafts from this weekend. Now, I openly point out that it’ll probably be two years before we truly know how each of these teams fared in the draft, but we can still see some teams have reason to be optimistic sooner rather than later. First of all, the Kansas City Chiefs, led by Herm “We play to win the game” Edwards was phenomenal. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey is the real deal, and was the number one overall player on the ‘Skins draft board. Branden Alberts, the guard from Glen Burnie High, is exactly the type of offensive lineman I would have traded your kid to get on my favorite football team. Brandon Flowers was one of the most consistent players on a stout Virginia Tech defense, and Jamaal Charles is the type of running back who can break a 60-yard touchdown at any moment. Those are four really good players from four legit college programs who should be making Kansas City proud for the foreseeable future.

I also really liked the Arizona Cardinals’ draft. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a very talented cornerback out of Tennessee State. Calais Campbell is the defensive lineman out of University of Miami pipeline, who I was convinced the ‘Skins would draft. Early Doucet is a productive wide out from LSU who should take full advantage of his situation and learn from ultra talented wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. And finally, I liked how the Pittsburgh Steelers spent their weekend. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker should work nicely in the Steelers backfield. Limas Sweed was a dependable wide out during his sentence in Texas, and I’ve already mentioned that I’m a fan of Dennis Dixon, the quarterback from Oregon. There’s a reason the Steelers are consistently competitive.

5. This isn’t completely draft related, but it happened over draft weekend, so work with me. After hearing months of nagging, I finally got my act together and uploaded some of my best photos taken of the Washington Redskins over the past three years. If you were one of the people kicking me to get my act together, or if you just want to see some decent shots of your favorite ‘Skins players, then click this link.

(photo by Brian Murphy)

27Apr

only in the district

“There will never be a rivalry between me and DeShawn.”

Those are the words of Cleveland Cavs superstar LeBron James from this past Friday. Thankfully, King James’ words to the media and his actions are not on the same page as this first round playoff series continues to find new ways to become more and more enjoyable. Let’s take a step back to get everyone caught up:

After the Wiz defeated the LeBrons back in March, Stevenson called LeBron “overrated.” It had less to do with King James being on the cover of Vogue that month, and more to do with stopping LeBron from hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer. When asked for a response, James declined, saying responding to Stevenson “would be like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy.” (Trashtalking For Dummies breakdown: I’m the best there is and he’s a one-hit wonder).

DeShawn is a smart guy, so he uses that slight as a reason to contact Soulja Boy. He catches the rapper up on the feud and invites him to join the Wizards in their playoff quest to dethrone mighty King James. Fast forward to this past week, when Soulja Boy sat courtside for the Wizards first home game of the playoffs, a 36-point rout of the Cavs, while rocking a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, here’s a link to the video (courtesy of the Washington Post) of Soulja Boy doing his trademark dance and even throwing in Stevenson’s “I can’t feel my face” hand wave at the end.

Beat writers jokingly asked LeBron if Jay-Z, who by the way is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets, would be appearing in James’ corner for game four. “No. Come on. We don’t … I’m not even going to say what I want to say,” was his response. So that’s it, end of story, right? Not by a long shot.

Mike Wise’s column from Sunday’s edition of the Post breaks the news that Jay-Z
made a diss record on Friday about DeShawn Stevenson, with Mr. Beyonce Knowles freestyling over the beat from “Blow The Whistle” by Too Short. Read that last sentence again. The biggest rapper alive crushed DeShawn Stevenson in a track specifically made for this feud that was played at Love, the same D.C. hotspot where Gilbert Arenas’ million-dollar birthday jam was held last year. Ladies and gentlemen, all we’re missing is an owner like the unstable Mark Cuban or a cameo by “Iron” Mike Tyson and this could end up becoming the biggest sports story of 2008.

People wonder how I’ve been able to brainwash my wife, who knew nothing about sports before I “saved” her five years ago. The truth is, this town does sports like no other. We’ve got Clinton Portis playing dress up during press conferences. Chris Cooley wears booty shorts and marries a Redskins cheerleader (only after she gets fired for being with him in the first place). Alex Ovechkin, the league’s best player, like to hit people as much as score goals. Sergei Fedorov was married to Anna Kournikova. Gilbert Arenas blogs about killing himself. Caron Butler went on Oprah to tell her about being a thug as a child. DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden have a beard-growing competition — first one to shave reportedly loses $25,000. Seriously, this isn’t professional sports — it’s an MTV reality show. It’s the kind of crap-tastic drama that fills her gossip magazines and airs weekly on Big Brother or The Real World. You can’t pry her away from this stuff. Where else in the world would Jay-Z feel the need to pause his 43rd comeback tour to freestyle a rap dissing the fourth most popular basketball player on the team?

Only in the district. And thank God for that.

26Apr

livin’ on a prayer

Day one of the NFL draft is in the books and if you’re a Redskins fan you’ve had no choice but to scratch your head at least once during the day. Let me start by saying I’m thrilled the team was able to trade out of the first round and improve their selections, thanks to a deal with Atlanta. Some of the names we’d heard the ‘Skins liked were there when it was time to make a decision about the 21st pick, but they resisted the urge to reach on a player who likely would have still been available later on. I was genuinely pleased with how things played out — trading away the pick and then still landing Devin Thomas, the wide out from Michigan State who they had rated as the best receiver in the draft.

Vinny Cerrato, the man calling the shots for the Redskins on draft day, said if they weren’t ablt to make a move they would have drafted Thomas at 21. Luckily, they made the move and still got him with the third pick in the second round, while also helping themselves out by improving later pick (they got the 34th, 48th and 103rd pick overall for the 21st, 84th and 154th selections in the draft). This is an impulse team that likes to make the big splash whenever possible, so seeing them rewarded for playing it safe and trading back gives one hope that they learn to be a little more like the guys calling the shots in New England, Pittsburgh and the rest of the elite front offices.

But just when you think you’ve got them figured out, these Redskins go and do something that completely baffles you. A team in dire need of help on both the offensive and defensive lines decides to use the newly-acquired second rounder on a tight end named Fred Davis from USC. I’m fairly sure if we were ranking the biggest areas of need on the current Washington Redskins football team that tight end would not rank in the top five, maybe not in the top 10. Chris Cooley is a premiere player at the position, Todd Yoder does a fine job backing him up and occasionally blocker and Tyler Ecker is a young guy who the ‘Skins drafted a year ago for depth at the position. With Calais Campbell, the defensive end from Miami (a.k.a. – The “U”) sitting there waiting for the Redskins to ask him for this dance, I thought the team would continue to impress us all today. Instead, we got Fred.

If that’s not enough, then the ‘Skins went one step further and drafted another receiver, Malcolm Kelly (you know, the guy I compared to Rod Gardner in an earlier post). I fully understand that the Redskins flew down to Oklahoma for a private workout with the kid this past Thursday and they legitimately considered drafted him with the 21st pick, meaning that he looked very appealing to them 30 picks later, but this is simply overkill. Unless they’re planning on putting 100 lbs. of weight on Fred and Mr. Kelly and teaching them to play on the offensive line, I cannot be on board with these picks. You’ve got Santana Moss, Antwan Randle El, James Thrash and Anthony Mix at wide out already, as well as Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers also around to get the ball to. When exactly are Thomas, Davis and Kelly (they sound like a law firm, don’t they?) going to touch the football? Sure, you’re trying to surround Jason Campbell with as much talent as possible, but that should also include help on the O-line.

Heading into day two the team has a third, fourth, sixth and two seventh rounders to get some depth on the offensive and defensive line, safety, cornerback and a back-up quarterback. Considering it’s virtually impossible for nine rookies to make the 2008 squad, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this team will still have some holes to fill once the draft is done. That’s means you either cross your fingers and pray like hell that a veteran or two gets cut in June or you go into the season praying injuries don’t cripple you at vital positions. Either way, that’s cause for an awful lot of faith with the big guy upstairs.

One final note – For what it’s worth, Cerrato told the media out at Redskins Park that drafting 17 receivers today basically means that they’ve given up on trying to acquire Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin or Roy Williams in a trade.

26Apr

easy on the eyes

There is no offseason for my buddies from Skinscast, who went above and beyond the call of duty to bring you, the general public, photos from the 2008 Washington Redskins cheerleader auditions. I’m not sure why you’re still reading this when you should be clicking this link and getting your first look at the 2008 First Ladies of Football.

The photo on the right is actually one I took last season, but for some reason I figured that you guys wouldn’t mind seeing Anabel Dela Cerna one more time. If you like her, then you’ll probably enjoy this link to her photos from last year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Can you tell NFL draft day puts me in a good mood?

(photo by Brian Murphy)

25Apr

feeling a draft

(photo by Brian Murphy)


I take my Redskins very seriously. At times I’m like an overprotective parent, hoping to shield my little mess of a kid away from all the harm and negativity in the world — even if it means, at times, trying to protect it from itself.

Let me say for the record, I don’t have a problem with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. I have never once thought that his heart wasn’t in the right place. He’s loved the ‘Skins, just like I have, since day one. If for no other reason, I’ll always be cool with The Danny for that. But damn if the man doesn’t just make for public enemy number one with the media, who by the way are the people the cover his team on a day-to-day basis. Maybe it’s the perceived arrogance or the limited media availability or it’s just the fact that he’s mega-rich young guy who bought himself a silver spoon and one of the most successful sports franchises around. Whatever the reason, the folks charged with covering him and his team just plain don’t like him, and he gets no free passes from them. Especially this time of year.

It’s fitting that I bring up The Danny the day before the draft, because his name is always floating around out there during the offseason. How many NFL owners have a personal airplane? Couldn’t say. But we do know The Danny has Redskins One fueled up and ready to go on the first day of free agency or if there’s a personal workout that needs attended in the days leading up to the draft, as was the case this week when he watched a handful of kids go through one final session before finalizing the Redskins’ draft board.

There are a few names out there that are being repeated often enough to make ‘Skins fans take notice. The first name mentioned was Virginia offensive lineman Branden Albert, but at this point everyone’s fairly convinced he’ll be gone at least 10 spots before the Redskins are on the clock. With Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas seemingly unable to stay healthy for more than two games in a row, and the rest of the starters all over 30, it would seem wise for the Redskins to use their first rounder adding some youth to the line. But nothing’s that easy with the Washington Redskins, is it?

Another name we hear as a possible addition to the maroon and black (sorry Mr. Zorn, it’s too funny not to reference every once in a while) is Phillip Merling, a defensive lineman from Clemson. He’s one of the aforementioned player who worked out for The Danny and friends 48 hours before the draft. He’s also the gentleman who has dropped on some draft boards because of health issues, specifically a sports hernia. I read on the Redskins Insider blog that some scouts consider him a kind of Phillip Daniels 2.0, of sorts. While I like Daniels — he’s solid on and off the field and has the wingspan of a Buick — he’s never been someone the opposition has to gameplan for. And when we hear about the sports hernia, the locals can’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling. A sports hernia is no fun, and it doesn’t just magically go away one day. It’s the same injury that caused Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb to end his 2005 season prematurely. Call me a pessimist, but I get a sneaking suspicion that if the Redskins draft Merling the best-case scenario is he turns out like linebacker Rocky McIntosh, a talented young player who had health issues when the ‘Skins drafted him in the second round of the 2006 draft and continues to have trouble staying on the field because of various injuries. At least they can work together rehabbing from whatever ails them. (In the immortal words of Tenacious D — “That’s fucking teamwork!”)

The other name floating out there is Oklahoma wide out Malcolm Kelly, who I would rather not see holding up a Redskins jersey at any point this weekend. He’s the guy who ran a terribly slow 40-yard dash and then blamed everyone else. Then he set up a “do over” on a faster track on campus and still ran a disappointing 4.63. He’s a player who, like Merling, finds himself sliding down the draft board, only his reason is called “character issues,” which is NFL code for “the guy’s an asshole.” He’s a big target, who isn’t very fast and has questionable character. Where have we heard that story before? Oh, that’s right — the ‘Skins drafted a guy by the name of Rod “Stone Hands” Gardner back in 2001, who is the poster child for that description. If ever a team should be afraid to walk down the aisle with a player like that, it’s the Redskins.

That’s why I’m openly praying for a trade — either dropping out of the first round to pick up additional selections, or to acquire a proven wide receiver like Anquan Boldin, Roy Williams or Chad Johnson. Sure, Johnson is carrying on like a jackass in Cincy, but he’s a Drew Rosenhaus guy, and we all know that The Super Agent is in The Danny’s “Fave Five.” As soon as he gets to D.C., he’ll be smiling and sitting courtside with Clinton Portis at Wizards games or in the front row with Jason Campbell at Capitals games.

At the end of the day, the Redskins need help on the offensive line, defensive line, at receiver and at safety. They would also like to draft a third-string quarterback now that New Orleans has decided to take on a charity case by the name of Mark Brunell, leaving Washington with only Campbell and Todd “The Tasty Drink” Collins behind center.

I traded emails with a few of the professionals who earn a living covering this team, and none of them can say with any amount of certainty what the Redskins will do at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening when it’s time to make the 21st pick in the draft. Names like LaRon Landry, Sean Taylor and Jason Campbell might lead fans to think that’s the Redskins will have no problems bringing in another cornerstone with their first rounder, but guys like Patrick Ramsey and Rod Gardner have also been first rounders over the last decade. My advice? Crack open a frosty and refreshing beverage, cross your fingers and pray like hell the front office brings home the goods, one way or the other.

In the words of Terrell Owens (when he’s not appearing on porn websites) get your popcorn ready.

27Sep

One on one with Marcus Washington

In a world where dog fighting, weapons charges and police blotters dominate the sports pages it’s refreshing to come across a player like Marcus Washington. Between his positive outlook, 100-watt smile and infectious personality he quickly became a fan favorite ever since taking over our nation’s capital in 2004.

As the Redskins head into their bye week, we caught up with the locker room leader to talk about everything from dealing with his share of adversity last season to the town where everyone knows his name.

You are originally from Auburn, Alabama. What’s it like there and what was your childhood like?

My childhood? Hmmm … there’s not really a whole bunch going on in Auburn. Most days just consisted of playing with your friends, running through the woods and playing all different types of games – football, basketball – a little bit of everything. But, not a lot. Growing up loving Auburn football, loving college football.

How early did you start playing football and how many other positions did you play when you were younger? What was your favorite NFL team growing up?

I started playing in the yard when I was younger. I started organized football when I got to the seventh grade, and I started off playing strong safety, fullback, tight end, wide receiver and cornerback in high school. Receiver and corner were my best positions back then.

My favorite NFL team growing up? Probably the Buffalo Bills. I just liked them because they won a lot, they had some really good linebackers and I liked Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and all those guys.

Are you naturally athletic, or did you have to work harder to get to the highest level of competition? What other sports, if any, are you good at?

I’m pretty athletic, but I’m probably more tough than anything. Out-toughing people, that’s probably the biggest thing in football.

I played a little basketball. I had to work more at basketball – it didn’t come as natural. I used to really like soccer too. In high school I played forward and center in basketball, now I’m probably more of a banger – more of a Ben Wallace-type player. But I could play a little bit in high school.

You attended Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama, which is also where Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Demarcus Ware and New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora went to high school. How is that much talent coming out of one high school?

I don’t know. Guys just really enjoy playing football down there in Auburn. It’s such a football-oriented town, you just kind of fall in love with it and you’ve got the university pretty much in your backyard, so you can watch certain players and get an understanding of how I need to play, day in and day out, to get to the next level.

Me and Osi actually took a couple classes together in high school and Demarcus, I played ball with him and his cousins. Yeah, we all know each other.

After high school, you played college ball for Auburn University. What was your overall college experience like and what did you get out of your time there?

It was cool. I played for my best friend’s dad, who was my position coach growing up. I got converted to linebacker and that was my first introduction to the linebacker position. It didn’t come naturally at first, but by my junior year I started coming into my own and got better. I was a slow developer – developed kind of late and was kind of small coming out of high school.

How big time is the football program there?

It’s pretty big time – especially the football program. That’s SEC football and people live, eat and breathe SEC football down there. We don’t have any pro teams, so either you’re Alabama or you’re Auburn. It’s not like a lot of other states where it’s divided up and people love a professional baseball team or professional basketball team. We don’t have any of that. You’re pretty much either Auburn or Alabama.

You were drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the 28th pick in the second round (59th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. Talk to us about what it felt like to get drafted to play in the NFL. Were you happy to be drafted or were you disappointed you weren’t picked higher?

You know, I was just happy to be drafted. I figured if I could just get there I could do the rest. Just getting there, especially being drafted on the first day was a pretty big deal. I didn’t have any parties or anything, but just getting drafted was a big honor.

How much of a transition is it to go from the college game to the pros? And, what was like playing for a team that was clearly one of the best in the NFL on offense but wasn’t nearly as prolific on defense?

For me it was a pretty big transition because I was a defensive end my last year in college and had to become a stand-up linebacker. So a lot of times early on the play would be going one way and I’d be going the other way because I wasn’t used to it. It came and I got better, but I’m still learning – even if I’ve come a long ways.

It was an adjustment, but I learned a lot by going up against a really good offense day in and day out. You learn how to compete against guys that are pretty good at what they do. I think I really benefited by going against those guys day in and day out in practice.

Because of Peyton Manning’s contract situation you were made you a free agent in March of 2004 and the Washington Redskins quickly made you an offer. Were you disappointed that the Colts let you go or happy to head to Washington?

I wasn’t really disappointed because you have to understand the business side of it. In a perfect world I’m sure they would have kept me. Bill Polian actually wrote me a letter just kind of saying that he hated to let me go and things like that, but I didn’t have any hard feelings about it. There were some great guys over there, but I fell in love with D.C. We built this team based on our defense, so everything kind of worked out for me in the end. There’s a lot of tradition here, we’ve got a hard-nosed type of squad and the fans here are great and really love football. It reminds me of Auburn a little bit – we even have our big rivalry with Dallas and that whole Cowboys and Indians type of thing. I fell in love with the Redskins and with D.C.

A lot of people who are critical of the Redskins say they continue to overpay for free agent busts instead of focusing on the draft. Well, you were a free agent, and since Mr. Washington came to Washington, you’ve made the Pro Bowl in 2004 and anchored a top-ranked defense that carried the entire team to the playoffs in 2005. So not all of the Redskins free agents are busts, right?

It worked pretty well for me. You know, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Some teams like to do it from the draft. Some teams like to go out and get high-quality guys and we’ve been lucky to bring in some really good guys in here and we’ve been able to gel really fast. We’ve been pretty successful as a defense since I got here and I think we’ll continue to get better as a defense and as a team.

We think you’ve been spoiled a little bit – playing for Hall of Fame coach Job Gibbs and for future Hall of Famer Tony Dungy. Some players are only in the league long enough to play for a guy like Steve Spurrier, so how blessed are you to play for two of the best coaches of our generation?

I’m really fortunate because, the thing about great coaches is you learn a lot about football, but you learn a lot about life as well. You know, how to approach everyday life. Coach Dungy is a big Christian guy who has had to fight through some tough adversity and been pretty successful. You just kind of watch a guy like that and try to imitate him and you know you’ll be a pretty good man. And Coach Gibbs is the same way – he’s a Christian guy who very seldom curses, loves his family and is pretty much successful at everything he touches. Just being around people like that, I think it rubs off on you. Most times, when you hang around great people, they rub off on you.

Speaking of coaches who rarely curse, what is it like to play for Gregg Williams?

(Laughs). Gregg is a fiery coach, and I think on the defensive side of the ball you need a little of that. You need a coach who will light a fire up under you every now and then. I think if we gave Gregg a helmet on Sundays he’d be out there trying to make plays with us, so he definitely gets you going. He comes from that Buddy Ryan school of thought – a high intensity type coach. As a defensive player you love playing for a fiery defensive coordinator like that.

During a routine drug test last August, your urine sample was classified as diluted, and by league rules you were placed in the NFL’s substance abuse program. For the rest of the season you were subjected to random testing and you even had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation – even though you didn’t actually fail a drug test. How tough was it to go through all of that and should the NFL fix the system so they’re not penalizing a guy who could have simply drank too much water?

It was a tough deal last year. I hated it because I felt like I was being accused of a crime I didn’t do. It really pisses you off because you shouldn’t be guilty until proven innocent. It should be the other way around. But unfortunately, in that situation, it wasn’t the case. They definitely need to revisit that whole rule. I think in some of the other leagues – like in baseball or the NBA – if a guy’s sample is too diluted they just test him again. Especially if he hasn’t ever failed a drug test.

I’ve never failed one, all the way back to college, and this is my eighth year in the league. I got tested in the first couple days of training camp, when it’s pretty damn hot in Virginia, so you gotta be hydrated because they’re constantly preaching to us to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Well, you don’t wanna be too hydrated or you can get thrown into some crazy deal that haunts you all year. So, I think they need to revisit it and come up with some better ways to handle it to weed out the guys who are trying to mask something versus the guys who are just trying to take care of their bodies and do the right thing by hydrating.

Between the drug test, your hip injury last season and the dislocated elbow this preseason, I know you just wanted to get all of that past you and play football. How great has this solid start been for you personally and are the 2007 Washington Redskins for real? I know Coach Gibbs doesn’t like predictions, but can we expect a return to the playoffs?

It’s been great to put all that stuff behind me. Last year was a tough year for me, a tough year for the team, our coaches, the fans – everybody. It’s great to put all that behind you and start on a clean slate. So far we’ve gotten off to a pretty good start and we’re just trying to focus on the next game. We’re trying to go 1-0 for a week and not look too far down the road. We’re not worried about playoffs or starting to get measured for our Super Bowls rings or anything like that. We’re just out here working hard and approaching each game by putting our best foot forward and doing the best we can do. If we can consistently do that all year, then I think we’ll be fine.

Talk to us about gameday. Are your superstitious? Do you have a set routine – you know, a certain meal or music to get you in the right frame of mind?

I’m not a real superstitious guy. I like to listen to music to get hype. I like my music really loud so I can almost go into like another dimension. I don’t have a lot of superstitions. My towel has to be really nice and perfect, the way I like it and my music’s got to be loud. That’s it for me.

Anyone who has ever stepped into the locker room or watched you on the field during a TV timeout knows you love music. What are you listening to these days and what should fans put in the CD player to get them fired up on Sundays?

You know, I’m all over the place. When I first come into the locker room we’ve got maybe an hour and a half before its gametime, so I’ve got the slow jams pumping. I don’t wanna get too hype too fast. So I’ve got some slow jams, maybe some south rock. But about 30 minutes before the game you start to crank it up a little bit. Right now we’ve got that Young Jeezy, T.I. and that Soulja Boy’s been pretty hot lately. That’s kind of how I do it.

For fans, I would definitely go T.I. with T.I. versus T.I.P. That’s probably the hottest CD out right now. The hottest single out right now is probably “Crank That” by Soulja Boy.

A lot of your teammates are big into video games. Between the PS3 and the 360, I know some big games of Madden and Halo are played. Do you play?

I’ve got a PS3, but I haven’t played it a bunch. Actually, I haven’t played it any. I’ve been over on the PS2. I love playing NCAA college football. That’s my favorite game. I think some of the guys play Madden and have tournaments, but I’m more of a college guy. I just like to run the option. That’s one of my favorite plays and you can’t really run that on Madden, so I always play it on NCAA.

What would you be doing for a living if you never got into football?

If I hadn’t played in college and hadn’t gotten a scholarship then maybe I would have went into the military. Try to do it that way and choose a profession. Or, I’m really into history, so maybe I would have become a history teacher.

Which military branch could you have seen yourself choosing?

My uncle was an Army guy, but I think I would have tried the Navy SEALs – that’s the coolest thing ever. I don’t know if I could even make it, but definitely trying would have been cool. I would have been able to say I tried it and got this far.

And what do you see yourself doing after you retire from football?

Maybe teaching history. I think I want to go back to school and study history a little more. Maybe teach, and I don’t know, maybe even a little coaching.

I’m not sure if you know this, but 2,551 miles from Ashburn, Virginia, is a town called Marcus, in Washington State. Have you ever been out there?

I’ve never been out there. A couple people looked it up on the internet and told me about it. I used to know the population, but I can’t remember it right now …

At last count, there was something like 117 people there. Even though you’ve never been there, how do you envision the town of Marcus, Washington?

I think it should just be happy all the time. There should be a happy hour and wingfest every day, you know what I mean? There should be a mandatory nap time, so people can get off of work and go home and take a nap. But people would definitely be hype and have a good time with a bunch of parades, parties and a real upbeat town.

So if you roll in do they automatically have to give you the key to the city? How does that work?

I think I should be able to get the key to the city. If it’s a town called Marcus, Washington that would only be right. I should at least be considered for the key, if not given to me.

It’s funny because you grew up in Auburn and then went to Auburn. Your name is Washington, and you’re playing in Washington. At some point, you’re going to end up in Marcus, Washington – it’s already been laid out there for you.

(Laughs). I think so. I think that’s probably my destiny. I’ll be a history teacher out there in Marcus, Washington. That sounds like it may be in my future.

And finally, when they make a movie based on your life who will play you and what will the name of the movie be?

I think Denzel Washington might play me in the movie, and the name of it would be “Grustling” – a mixture of hustling and grinding. We call it grustling.

Interviewed by Brian Murphy, September 2007.

23Aug

One on one with Clinton Portis

Since the moment he first stepped onto a football field, Clinton Portis has made the world take notice. He won a national championship at the University of Miami, earned rookie of the year honors with the Denver Broncos and broke the Washington Redskins single-season rushing record, all before he even turned 25.

While no one else has seemingly been able to stop Portis, we were able to slow him down long enough to chat with us about everything from playing for a Hall of Fame coach to growing up with the toughest mom in the NFL.

Where are you originally from and what was your childhood like?

Laurel, Mississippi, and it was filled with getting whuppins’ every day for something I didn’t do. I was the baby in the family and growing up if one of us got a whuppin’, all of us got it. I think some of my cousins would dispute that claim and say I never got a whuppin’, but I got more of them than anybody.

How many brothers and sisters are we talking about?

I got two older brothers, but cousins … I got a heap of cousins, you know. It was just one big family vibe.

How early did you start playing football and how many other positions did you play when you were younger?

I played football as a shortie. We played a lot of football out in the yard and in the church parking lot because they had a big open area up there. As far as organized football, I tried to play pee wee one year and they didn’t play me because they said I was too young to play. So the following year I went out and I ended up punching a little boy in the stomach for messing with my cousin. My momma wouldn’t let me play again, so I really didn’t play organized football until high school, in the ninth grade.

Are you naturally athletic, or did you have to work harder to get to the highest level of competition? What other sports, if any, are you good at?

I think it’s natural, but you know, the older you get the more work you gotta put in. Back in the day I never worked out, I never did anything, I’d just come out and play football. I think now that I’m getting older the athletic ability is still there – I still make some moves that are amazing to myself and make me wonder “Damn, how did I just do that?”

The athletic side of it comes from my upbringing – playing basketball, football or anything else. I can shoot, I can hoop a little bit. I ran track and did the high jump. I can play volleyball. I’m pretty sure if we get a kickball game going I could play kickball. I really want to work on playing tennis. My hand-eye coordination ain’t that good to play baseball, but I’m really just a sports fan.

Weren’t you a pretty accomplished track and field guy coming out of high school and college?

Yeah, we still have the high school state record in Florida right now. We ran the 4×100-meter relay team in 40.8 seconds. Most colleges don’t run that fast, and we ran it in high school. Coming out of high school, I competed in the 4×100, the 4×400, the high jump, the long jump and I actually medaled at state in five events – that’s the most you can compete in. So, I did alright.

You went to the University of Miami and were the second true freshman to start at running back for the Hurricanes since 1975. With the insane amount of talented running backs to go through Miami we gotta ask – how were you able to start so quickly when so many others had to sit and wait their turn?

It was just the right timing. Najeh Davenport went down the first game of the season and I really think they wanted to red shirt me or move me to defensive back. We had myself, Jarrett Payton, James Jackson, Najeh Davenport, and we were all competing. Because of all the people who doubted me and said I can’t do it, I was eager to go out and prove myself and I prevailed.

In 2001 you were able to experience something most college athletes only dream of, winning the national championship. How stacked was that Hurricanes squad and what’s your favorite memory looking back on that season?

I tell people about all of those players to come out of that team and some of the players I had the opportunity to play with. You go back to Bubba Franks, Dan Morgan, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, William Joseph, Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, Phillip Buchanan, Mike Rumph, Nate Webster, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Rocky McIntosh, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee … the list goes on.

It was really exciting and looking back at those times and seeing how everybody competed back then, it’s no wonder they’re successful now.

You were drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 19th pick in the second round (51st overall) of the 2002 NFL draft. Talk to us about what it felt like to finally get drafted to play in the NFL. Were you happy to be drafted or were you disappointed you weren’t picked in the first round?

I was so mad I actually left the draft. After Carolina picked DeShaun Foster in the second round, I didn’t watch anymore of the draft. I was actually on the highway, going to Tallahassee, when I got the phone call telling me I had been drafted. I was really disappointed that I wasn’t an earlier pick. I swear, I thought I was a top ten pick after my pro day. I ran a 4.27 in the 40, didn’t drop a pass, my vertical jump was a 38 or 39. I had an unbelievable pro day, but then all of the sudden it was that I was “too cocky” and people questioned my attitude. People didn’t think I would pan out, and didn’t think I could take the pounding of being an every-down back in the NFL. A lot of people thought I was going to be too wild, but to this day I’ve never gotten into trouble.

Using that as motivation, you immediately made your presence known by earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and joining Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as the only rookies to rush for more than 1,500 yards in each of your first two seasons. What enabled you to make such an instant impact at the NFL level?

You know, I told Coach Shanahan when he called me, “I really appreciate this and you’ll never regret it. I will be rookie of the year and I will give you everything I’ve got.” Coach Shanahan gave me an opportunity and I am grateful for it. To win rookie of the year and go to the Pro Bowls each of your first two years in the league, that’s pretty amazing.

Then, to come out and be the highest-paid back in the league in my third year and have the expectations of the world be placed on my shoulders, I had 1,300 yards and for the longest time I beat myself up about it. But now, any time I get 1,300 yards I’m going to be glad and take it in stride because most of the people that they give all the credit to or are all excited about never even did that. So if I was a 1,300-yard back over my career, that’s a nice average for me.

One of our favorite moments in your career occurred when you torched the Kansas City Chiefs for 218 yards and five touchdowns. What inspired you to celebrate the moment by breaking out a wrestling-style championship belt and where is that belt today?

I still got the belt, but it’s put up. That’s the attitude that I need to get back to. When I did that there was a lot going on, and I knew I wanted to be a feature back, a big-time back. I was going against the league’s hottest back at the time, Priest Holmes, and with the rivalry between Denver and Kansas City being as big as it is I was ready to play. Shannon [Sharpe] and Rod Smith came at me like, “C.P., whatcha gonna do? We gotta do something, we’re at home.” So that week I put it all on the line. That same week I went out and bought two new cars – an SL500 and a G-Wagen 500 – because if I’m going to make my money, I’m gonna make it this game.

At halftime I had like 12 carries for 52 yards. But the third quarter, man, was one of the most spectacular quarters ever. I didn’t even play in the fourth quarter of that game, which people fail to realize. But in the third quarter I had something like 150 yards on six carries, and three consecutive carries for touchdowns. You’d really have to be a stat freak to know that, but to this day I look back and have conversations with people and they say, “Man, you had 100 yards rushing in a quarter, let alone a game, and to get 100 yards in a game is kind of tough.”

I remember when Jamal Lewis broke the single-game rushing record. We were playing in San Diego and Sharpe asked me if I had seen what had happened and told me I needed to top Lewis. I was like, “Let’s go get it.” The first quarter I had seven carries for 121 yards and ended up hurting my sternum on a fluke play. I got caught in the clay and was falling on the play while my chest was left open; I got hit and couldn’t finish the game. I had seven carries for 121 yards in the first quarter and think I would have broken the record, but that will forever be unknown.

In March of 2004, the Denver Broncos traded you to the Washington Redskins for Champ Bailey and a second-round draft pick. What was your reaction to the trade and, looking back, which team got the better end of the deal?

I think it panned out for both. I think Denver got what they were looking for and Champ is a helluva player, probably the top DB in the NFL. And for myself, coming to Washington to gel with these guys, bringing that attitude, bringing that character and bringing my style to Washington, I think this was a perfect fit. I got the opportunity to be around guys who I came up with in Santana Moss and Sean Taylor and I was excited about getting them here. Just having the opportunity to come here was major.

I think Champ wanted to make a move and I did too, and to this day I’m still excited that Denver got Champ and a draft pick, which was Tatum Bell, out of the deal and Washington just got me.

Talk about making a strong first impression, on your very first carry for Washington you earned the love of every Redskins fan when you busted out for a 64-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Memorable moment.

(Redskins fullback Mike Sellers walks up and asks Portis, “Who made that block for you though?”)

I don’t know because I didn’t follow my block on that one.

(Both players crack up and Sellers heads to the locker room.)

What’s it been like for you playing in Washington for a Hall of Fame coach and with such a diehard fanbase cheering you on every Sunday?

That’s been my greatest experience, playing for Coach Gibbs and playing for the Washington Redskins, which may be the biggest sports franchise in any league. The fans come out and support them, week in and week out – win, lose or draw. When I was in Denver I really didn’t think it got any bigger or better than the Denver Broncos fans, but then I got here and realized that everyone you run into is a Washingtonian or a Redskins diehard who remembers this time or remembers that time.

I would love to help this team get back to prominence and the level of dominance from that era, especially for Coach Gibbs. You really can’t find a better person, not just a coach, but a better person that lives the way he lives and believes the way he believes. That’s really how every man wants to be.

Last year you were injured while making a tackle during a meaningless preseason game. If you were commissioner for the day, how would you fix the current system? Would you shorten the preseason? Eliminate it completely?

Man, you know, if I was the commissioner I’d do a lot different. Like the individuality of the game – you want to sell that to the fans, but you’re really not letting the players be individuals. I would change that first and let players go out and have fun. A lot of the things that separate players and show the individuality of players is taken away – like celebrations or the dress code. I understand you want to make everyone look the same, but everybody is not the same. The way they market the NFL they’re making major money and that’s what it all boils down to, making money. They gotta get their money, but how much money can you make?

I say let the people go out and have fun. And I think the preseason should be about letting the people who are coming in, looking for a shot, have that opportunity. A lot of teams don’t do that. You don’t get the opportunity to go out and showcase your talent. You might get to play in one game or you might not. If you don’t even get into your first game then no one will ever know if you can play.

Because your season was cut short last year, it seems like critics are down on you. What’s your mindset heading into this season and what can the fans expect from Clinton Portis and the Washington Redskins in 2007?

You can expect C.P. to be back in the zone. I know no one is for me, everyone is against me. The people that are for me are probably the people that I sit down and have dinner with, and that’s it. That’s my family, my close friends and my teammates. Outside of them, it’s always “What have you done for me lately?”

People like negativity. They want to see you rise and see you fall. I know I didn’t fall, I got injured. I got injured doing something I love to do and that’s being aggressive and giving my all. Whether it’s preseason or not, I give it my all. When they turn the lights on, I go out there knowing I can’t give them garbage. I go out and play football – preseason, regular season, playoffs, anything. I got hurt putting myself on the line and people act like I fell off. I didn’t fall off, man. I was out there busting my ass in a game that wasn’t even meaningful. Once I get out on the field, I’m gonna go full speed. I think the whole thing was just a wake-up call. You’re only as hot as your last move and my last move it seems like was two years ago, so I ain’t that hot right now.

On the May 14th episode of Ballers on BET, you guaranteed that the Redskins would make it to the NFC Championship Game. Are you still standing by that guarantee?

You know, I really feel that way. Coach isn’t high on us making those kind of comments.

Well, it’s not like Coach is watching BET …

But it got back to him because I heard about it like two days after the show aired. Coach isn’t really high on you making predictions, he wants you to go out and play football. For myself, I feel like with the talent we’ve got here – we went to the playoffs when I was in Denver and the talent level that we had in Denver compared to what we have here is not even close. You had a bunch of guys in Denver who played great in that system or players the coaches knew how to play well in the system, but only a few standout guys like Al Wilson, Trevor Pryce, Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe, but it’s not like everyone on that team was a Hall of Famer.

On this team you’ve got the possibility that as many as 10-15 guys could end up in the Hall of Fame. The possibility, the talent and the opportunity are there. Our record is 0-0 and it’s up to us.

You also appeared on an episode of MTV Cribs a couple years back that people still talk about today. Your basement has reached legendary status – with the glowing beds, mirrors on the ceiling, red hot tub and the stripper pole. Where was that house and do you still own it? If not, does your current pad compete with that one?

That was actually my house in Denver and I still do own it. I ended up seeing that, probably about a year ago, I was watching Cribs one day and then when they got to me and got to my basement, my eyes lit up. My phone started ringing and people were like “Oh, they’re showing your house on Cribs!” I had to tell them that it was from when I was in Denver – you see how small I was, you see how old that was. But everyone was still excited.

I only had a little bit of money back then, and I felt like I really worked for what I had. I designed it, I decorated it, I came up with the color scheme and I came up with all the ideas. I didn’t call anyone, it was just me sitting down in the basement figuring out what I wanted to do and that’s what I came up with. To this day I’m still proud of that place, but right now, what I’m doing to my basement will top anything you’ve ever seen on that program.

The Mad Scientist, Southeast Jerome, Dr. I Don’t Know, Sherriff Gonna Getcha, Dolla Bill, Reverend Gonna Change, Kid Bro Sweets, Inspector 2-2, Angel of Southeast Jerome, Coach Janky Spanky and Dolemite Jenkins. Which one was your favorite character and is there any chance we’ll see a new identity this season?

I enjoyed all of my characters. I really can’t say I have a favorite one because week in and week out the characters that I came up with just seemed to fit with whatever we were going through. I really think that got us through some tough times here. We had lost a bunch of games consecutively and we really needed to find a way to win. I think once that came along and once that got hot, players came in with a different attitude.

When I first started, I remember a few people in the locker room looking at me like I was crazy. They were thinking “What the hell is he doing and why is he doing this?” By the end of the year, there wasn’t a player in the locker room that wasn’t in my locker trying to find what I was wearing or what I was doing or had some kind of idea to give me. That just shows how the team came together. The first time I did it, only three or four people were sitting around the locker room laughing while everyone was thinking “Why the hell is this dude doing that?” But by the end, everyone was involved, even bringing in different parts for my outfits.

Toughness runs in your family. Two seasons ago your mother ended up punching a Philadelphia Eagles fan in the stands during a game. Were you at all surprised that your mom was ready to throw down and that an Eagles fan was involved?

To this day, that is still in the air. I wasn’t in the stands, but toughness does run in my family. I can’t say that my mom did do that because I wasn’t there in the stands. I think that fan is full of ****, and was in the wrong. This is a lovely game and we need to keep it lovely. It’s okay to jaw jack, but never get personal when you’re cheering for something you have no control over. No fan can control an NFL game. No fan at all. I think the game should be enjoyable and the fans should come out and have a good time – if you want to come out and get drunk and talk trash, keep it friendly. But once you take it personal and have to come to blows and hit someone in the face, it’s not worth it.

Which current player would you pay money to see play, and which offensive player gives you the biggest challenge when you line up against them on Sundays?

Right now it would have to be Sean Taylor, Frank Gore or LaDainian Tomlinson. You know, I really would pay to go watch LaDainian. From watching film and seeing him on TV, the things he does are exciting. How he manages to stay scot-free on so many plays is exciting because I’m in the same position and I can’t find a way to go through a hole untouched like that.

Madden 2008 just came out. Are you a Madden guy? Do you play the game?

Yeah, I played it for the first time today. I actually played with San Francisco, but I gotta go get the Playstation 3. That’s what everyone was telling me to go get because it’s the sweetest. I think they kind of downgraded the Playstation 2 version just so everyone had to go out and buy the Playstation 3. I was never gonna leave the Playstation 2, but now that everyone is raving about Madden on PS3 being so much better, I gotta leave my Playstation 2.

Actor Anthony Anderson sported your jersey in the summer-blockbuster Transformers. So we have to ask, when can we expect to see you make your Hollywood debut and which actors or actresses would you like to work with?

Man, it’s time. I want to work with all actresses; I don’t want to work with actors. (Laughs).

Put me in a movie with all actresses, like Sanaa Lathan, like Kerry Washington … you know, Jamie Foxx could even hang out. I figure if he could get them to laugh on set it’ll make my job much easier and I could just flirt the whole time.

And finally, when they make a movie based on your life who would play you and what will the name of the movie be?

I don’t know. It would have to be someone with personality, like Jamie Foxx or Cat Williams. Cat Williams would be a good one because of his sense of humor. What it would be called, who knows? The Mysterious Life of Clinton Portis or something. Maybe The Life and Times of Spanky Janky. (Laughs).

Interviewed by Brian Murphy, August 2007.

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