Last August, Clinton Portis choked back emotion during a news conference at Redskins Park as he officially ended his nine-year NFL career.
“This game provided me with everything I ever wanted,” the second-leading rusher in Washington Redskins history said.
A year later, the sentiment has faded. On Tuesday, Portis joined the stream of former players suing the NFL over head injuries, according to court records obtained by The Washington Times.
Portis is the lead plaintiff in an 83-player lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Other plaintiffs include former Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper and 1,000-yard rusher Carnell “Cadillac” Williams.
But Portis, who played his final regular season game in 2010, is one of the biggest names of the last decade to participate in the litigation that has surged past 4,500 former players.
Ahman Green sued. Same with Stephen Davis and Thomas Jones and Dante Hall, in legal action where around 85 percent of the plaintiffs played before 2000.
Portis is the latest in a slew of big-name former Redskins to sue the NFL, joining Hall of Famer Art Monk, Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien and three founding members of the Hogs — Jeff Bostic, Joe Jacoby and Mark May — among more than 300 players-turned-plaintiffs.
Portis rolled up 9,923 yards with the Denver Broncos and Redskins. He finished 648 yards shy of Hall of Famer John Riggins’ franchise career rushing record and holds the 28th best total in NFL history. That led to two Pro Bowls and, according to the 128-page complaint, issues that haven’t left.
The lawsuit claims Portis suffers from headaches, among other problems, and is “at heightened risk of developing further adverse neurological symptoms in the future.”
On Twitter late Wednesday, Portis described former players as “picked up & left behind” and defended his decision to join the litigation.
“The NFL was great to me and so was the Redskins!” he wrote. “This not personal it’s protection for the future.”
Later Portis added: “This is not about money for me I’m doing just fine!”
In recent months, Portis discussed the price of his success and seemed to lay the groundwork to join the litigation. During a June interview with CBSSports.com, Portis estimated he sustained 10 or more concussions during his career.
“The truth is I had a lot of concussions,” Portis said. “It was just the way things were at the time. I’d get hit hard and be woozy. I’d be dizzy. I’d take a play off and then go back in. Sometimes when I went back into the game, I still couldn’t see straight. This happened all the time. Sometimes once or twice a game.”
The most memorable of those hits came in November 2009 against the Atlanta Falcons. In the first quarter, Portis collided with two defenders. That included a helmet-to-helmet hit.
The blow left him unconscious and forced him to miss four games before finally being placed on injured reserve to end his season.
The month after Portis’ hit and in the aftermath of several high-profile head injuries, the NFL announced a policy that required players who showed signs of concussion to be removed from games and barred them from returning the same day.
The Redskins released Portis in 2011, after he battled a torn groin muscle and the team faced an $8.3 million salary cap hit.
“Clinton gave everything he had, there is no question about it,” coach Mike Shanahan, who worked with Portis in Denver and Washington, said Wednesday. “He is one of the most physical players I’ve ever coached. Took a lot of pride in blocking as well as running. He was a credit to the game. I am not going to speak on his behalf of his concussions.”
Portis’ complaint uses similar language to the more than 260 lawsuits filed, claiming the NFL didn’t do enough to protect players from head injuries and concealed their long-term impact from players. The NFL has repeatedly denied those claims in public statements and in court filings.
Portis and his Miami-based attorneys didn’t return requests for comment.
The litigation has been consolidated in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before ruling on the NFL’s motion to dismiss in July, Judge Anita Brody ordered both sides to mediation. A progress report is due Sept. 3.