When NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported Tuesday that free agent Brian Westbrook would make his second official visit of the offseason — to the Redskins — it was noteworthy on several fronts.
One has to believe Westbrook’s former teammate, Donovan McNabb, has been pushing for the team to take a look, although La Canfora suggested that isn’t the primary motivation behind the visit. The Redskins are looking for a third-down back who excels as a receiver out of the backfield. Washington already has former Pro Bowl rushers Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, but none of them are as experienced in a third-down role as Westbrook. It wasn’t that long ago — 2006, in fact — that Johnson, Parker and Westbrook all rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
Another reason Mike Shanahan could be bringing in Westbrook is that the coach is a master motivator. Many took the Redskins’ signings of Johnson and Parker as signs of the end for Portis in Washington. But those signings also provided a unique source of motivation for Portis, known to lack offseason conditioning habits. Warren Sapp shared some insight into this issue earlier, pointing to how Portis split carries with Willis McGahee and Frank Gore at the University of Miami. To paraphrase Sapp, he knows Portis well enough to know that when the running back feels disrespected, he starts to ball. Portis is simply better when there are players around him trying to take his job.
Surely, Shanahan — who drafted Portis and coached his first two seasons in Denver — knows this. He knows Portis. And through openly discussing the commitment level of the Redskins during his first offseason, he has provided a warning shot.
“He’s being held accountable year-round and is responding,” according to a team source. “He’s working hard now, and Larry Johnson is pushing him. He ran harder (at minicamp) than ever during an offseason practice. He’s a competitor thriving on competition.”
Here’s some more insight to the “me against the world” mentality of Portis from Washington Post beat writer Jason Reid, with some excellent quotes. Portis is owed $6.5 million by the Redskins if he’s on the roster or not, adding intrigue to just who is the odd man out in Washington.