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Rick Snider: Redskins' Portis was quite a character

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

Clinton Portis and his posse retired from the NFL on Thursday.

Southeast Jerome is quitting. So is Sheriff Gonna Getcha, Dolla Bill, Doctor I Don't Know, Reverend Gonna Change, Hot Stuff and a handful of others. The Washington Redskins' most colorful player since John Riggins made his departure official one year after he was released and nine days before turning 31 years old.

"I'm walking away from this game proud of everything I've ever done," Portis said. "It became more than a game of football. It became a game of life."

Portis was one of the Redskins' leading post-Super Bowl era players. Champ Bailey, Darrell Green, Brian Mitchell, Chris Samuels and Chris Cooley round out that short list. Portis finished with four 1,000-yard seasons in seven years with Washington after a pair of 1,500-yard seasons at Denver.

But just as good as Portis' running was his blocking. The Redskins miss him picking up the blitz. He was the team's toughest running back since Larry Brown in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, Portis probably will join Brown among those falling just short of Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration. One more game would have given Portis 10,000 yards, which would have made his exclusion tougher. Portis finished with 9,923 yards and 78 touchdowns plus 247 catches for 2,018 yards and five touchdowns. He was second in Redskins history in rushing and carries.

Portis was both beloved and berated by fans. Those colorful characters he came out as for his midweek media session were the most creative thing I've ever seen from an athlete. Coaches and teammates would walk by, stop and stare wild-eyed at some of his outfits. They didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and neither did anyone else.

"Each character represented what we needed at the moment," he said. "All of them were funny."

Portis' weekly radio show also was a must-listen. The bombs dropped on that show would have sunk a fleet. Portis called out the offensive line, questioned coach Jim Zorn's intelligence and was the first of Jason Campbell's naysayers. All that came while he professed a passive-aggressive, who-me innocence.

"People that appreciated my honesty knew me," Portis said. "Most of the people who judged me don't know me. The people that know me love me."

Athletes today are so managed that it's unlikely we will see many like Portis again: a ticket seller who wasn't afraid to brag. Seriously, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III speaks once a week because his handlers know less is more. Portis was that loose cannon who made PR people lie awake at night.

But that's what fans crave in this era of access. The Internet abolished the filter between players and fans once provided by the media. Twitter allows players to show who they are, good or bad, directly to the public.

Portis showed fans who he was -- a man. His retirement will be spent with Dolla Bill and Southeast Jerome, being a "soccer dad" and enjoying life.

It's well deserved.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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