When Clinton Portis retired from the NFL in 2012, it had been two years since he had last taken a snap in a regulation game. However, the two-time Pro Bowl running back was still just 30 years old and could’ve built a case for the Hall of Fame had he continued to play.
Portis hung up his cleats with 9,923 rushing yards across nine seasons for the Denver Broncos and Washington. That total ranked 27th all time and his 6,824 yards in D.C. were the second most in franchise history behind only the Canton-enshrined John Riggins. Yet Portis’s love for the game had waivered, exacerbated by Washington’s decision to move the late Sean Taylor’s locker from the locker room in 2010.
“Once they moved Sean T.’s locker out of the locker room, my love for the game disappeared,” Portis told Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe on the Monday episode of his podcast Club Shay Shay. “Everybody looked [at me] like, ‘Oh, you left the game so early.’ Nah, I sat in a locker room where for a guy that we looked at as a god and I saw them remove his locker and put someone else there to create space. There was plenty of space in the locker room. You could’ve built a new locker. You didn’t have to remove Sean Taylor’s locker.”
Taylor was shot and killed during a burglary at his home Nov. 27, 2007. The star safety was four years into his NFL career, overcoming early character issues to endear himself to both teammates and fans while developing a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting players in the sport. Portis’s locker was right next to Taylor’s, which remained in its place covered in plexiglass until the team decided to move it to FedExField for public viewing.
Portis admitted to accepting the decision over time, but it hit him hard even two years after Taylor’s death.
“At that time, I was too sensitive,” Portis said. “I was too sensitive at that moment and it happened too early. Now, I think it’s a great idea that everyone gets to see it and it’s in the stadium and every fan and anybody who wants to acknowledge Sean, to see Sean, gets an opportunity to walk past that locker or take a picture. But at that time, I could never swallow that pill. When I see a guy that did everything, that laid it on the line and he became replaceable that quick, it changed my outlook.”
While the removal of Taylor’s locker was a catalyst for his retirement decision, it wasn’t the only reason. Portis also pointed to the death of his grandmother, butting heads with former head coach Jim Zorn and the little love he had for the workout regimen required to play in the NFL as contributing factors.