Article Published: Thursday, February 05, 2004
Portis lays down law
If Broncos don't make new deal, RB may hold out
By Adam Schefter
Denver Post Sports Writer
Post / Helen Richardson
Broncos running back Clinton Portis is scheduled to make $380,000 this season.
HONOLULU - Amid swaying palm trees and cool ocean breezes, Broncos running back Clinton Portis acknowledged there is trouble in paradise.
Portis said unless he has a new contract before training camp, he could hold out.
"I'm hoping the Broncos do work something out to where it doesn't go that far," Portis said after Wednesday's Pro Bowl practice. "I don't want to be a distraction to the team. I don't want it to come off as if it's I think I'm bigger than the team, because I don't.
"But at the same time, come on, man. There are players on special teams making more money than me. How long am I going to stay content with that? The Broncos know the situation. It's however they want to do it. I've given them two good years for the low-low. Why can't I be one of the top-paid players in the league?"
The Broncos might argue it is because Portis has two years remaining on a four-year contract that paid him a $1.29 million signing bonus and is scheduled to pay him $380,000 this coming season and $455,000 the next season.
Those salaries are well below those of the league's top players, as well as some of his teammates, but Portis' name is autographed on the dotted line.
Denver is dealing with other major financial concerns. Nearly $5 million over the salary cap for the coming season, it is struggling to re-sign Pro Bowl middle linebacker Al Wilson, who said Wednesday he will test the free-agent market that begins March 3. With Denver also trying to re-sign unrestricted free-agent linebacker Ian Gold, defensive end Bertrand Berry and fullback Reuben Droughns, the Broncos are playing from behind - way behind.
Only in this game Portis will not bail them out. This time he is trying to hit pay dirt.
"My best interests are my best interests," said Portis, who will be playing Sunday in his first Pro Bowl. "I'm going to decide what's in my best interests on my own.
"If I don't feel like going to camp, if I don't feel like the situation is right for me, I won't be there. If I do, then I will. If I decide that things aren't going right and I don't feel like the Broncos' organization is being true to me, then that's a hard decision I'll have to make."
The stage is set for a showdown that could last into July's training camp and beyond. Portis' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, whom the running back hired this winter, declined comment.
Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist also declined comment Wednesday, saying his team does not address contract situations. But Portis' statements should not have been a surprise to the organization.
Within the past month, Portis has submitted a lucrative contract proposal to the Broncos, only to be rebuffed. The Broncos have floated counterproposals, but none has come close to meeting Portis' satisfaction.
Last season, despite missing three games because of sternum, ankle and knee injuries, Portis ran for a career-high 1,591 yards. His 5.5 yards per carry were the NFL's best. He closed out the season with six consecutive 100-yard games. Now he wants to be rewarded for it.
"I would love to have a new deal," Portis said. "I don't know any player who would tell you he's content with being in the Pro Bowl and being one of the lowest-paid players on his team. Nobody is going to be happy with that. Really, I'm not really excited, but what can I do?"
For starters, Portis can skip Denver's offseason conditioning program, something he did last season while choosing to work out in Miami. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan never has taken kindly to players skipping the team workout sessions. Portis said he is uncertain where he would conduct his offseason training.
Wherever he does, Portis will be questioned about what he and the Broncos are doing. Pro Bowl players already have begun to weigh in.
"This is what I would tell Clinton," said Chiefs Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes, who was rewarded with a four-year contract extension that included a $10 million signing bonus and a $5 million annual average days before last season kicked off. "As long as he's producing and then he makes the decision that, 'Hey, I want to make my money, I want to go ahead and get my money now,' he has to stand firm with that and not waver."
It appears that is what Portis is willing to do.
"The ball is in the Broncos' court," Portis said. "You know who your top players are. If this is John Elway, would John Elway still be in the same situation? They had the situation with John Elway. The salary cap was just as high then. You've got Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis, the O-line he had. Come on. They had big players then, too, and they got paid.
"I hope this resolves itself positively. I love playing for the organization. I want to play for the organization. I'm one of the three players representing the Broncos in the Pro Bowl. But you make decisions.
"First it was, 'Can he do it?' Then it's, 'Is he a one-year wonder?' Now it's, 'Two years and we still want to see you.'
"How many times do I have to prove myself to somebody?"
Life as a Broncos' RB is short. If I was him, I would want to see some more money too. Should be interesting to how Denver handles this. Do they push the fact that they are covered by the contract.....or fold and pay up?