Clinton Portis: Crackdown on hitting could make game less exciting

Running back Clinton Portis is concerned that the NFL's crackdown on certain types of hitting could take some of the excitement out of the game, he said Tuesday during a radio interview.

In his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan's The Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner, Wise and Kushner asked Portis about his views on the NFL's decision this week to suspend players, even first-time offenders, for "devastating hits" and "head shots."

The league is responding to its ongoing concussion problem, and Portis, who suffered a concussion last season, understands the need to protect defenseless receivers when they go "up to catch a ball and somebody knifes or spear at you," he said. "But as far as dude running the ball, or running with the ball, and somebody hit you helmet to helmet, I think you got an opportunity to go down. You got an opportunity to slide.

"So, you know, if you start suspending for helmet-to-helmet hits, I think you gonna see a lot more broken tackles and less big hits in the game. I think it's going to take the excitement away from the game and hurt. At the same time, with safety issues, they gotta do what they gotta do."

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley suffered a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday's 27-24 loss loss to the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field. He continued to play after halftime and remained in the game until the end of the third quarter.

Portis's 2009 season was cut short after he suffered a concussion in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons. A month after his head injury, the Redskins assigned him to the season-ending injured-reserve list because of health problems stemming from the concussion. The two-time Pro Bowler continued to experience vision problems for months after the injury, and doctors prescribed corrective lenses to help him.

"This game always been violent," Portis said. "People like to see the mano a mano side of things. Like to see people collide. That's what makes football ... the greatest is the violent side. At the end of the day, somebody gonna be proven to be No. 1. It's everybody colliding, and who gonna be standing there at No. 1 at the end. I think that's the excitement of football and it's always been that way. For it to come in and change now, I know people are bigger, stronger and faster, so the collisions are getting tougher. But at the same time, I think that's what makes the game of football football."

New top back Ryan Torain had the first 100-yard game of his career against Indianapolis, gaining 100 yards on 25 rushes (a 5.0-yard average) and scoring two touchdowns in a display of powerful running. The second-year player ran through defenders throughout the game, often spinning through the grasp of would-be tacklers to extend running plays.

"If you look at Ryan, what you see is the first tackler will never, ever, ever tackle Ryan Torain," Portis said. "And if it's in [the] open field, that cornerback or that safety, when he get on the next defender, he pretty much punish 'em. And that's a good thing. He running hard, and I think he's gonna play the game the way it's supposed to be played. You want to play tough-man football and make opposing defenders feel you."

Torain's 100-yard performance was the team's first since former Washington back Ladell Betts had 114 yards on 26 carries (a 4.4-yard average) in a 27-17 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 10 of the 2009 season. Redskins backs have rushed for 100 or more yards only three times in the last 27 games.

Portis last rushed for 100 yards in Week 6 of last season. He gained 109 yards - including 78 on one rush - and had a 7.3-yard average during a 14-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at FedEx Field.

After Portis's groin injury was diagnosed, the Redskins announced he would be sidelined four to six weeks. Portis and Torain split time in the two games before Portis was sidelined, and it seems Torain is establishing himself as someone who could be a big part of the Redskins' future.

So if Portis does return this season, it is possible he would play a secondary role to the former practice-squad player. In base salaries and bonuses, the Redskins are paying Portis $7.7 million this season. Torain has a salary of $395,000.

"For the time being, for Ryan to go out and play the way he's playing and carrying this team, it makes me have an opportunity to fully recover even better," Portis said. "There's no rush or no pressure coming form the staff like, 'We need you this week.' While Ryan's carrying the load and doing the things he's capable of doing, he's helping the team until I can get back on that field."

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