As Washington closes in on a grievance hearing that could raise plenty of questions about the handling of alcohol by the organization, a couple of former players freely admit that they routinely drank alcohol before games.
“Prior to the game, on our way, we would take a little shot,” former Washington running back Clinton Portis told NBC4 in D.C. (via the Washington Post) regarding himself, receiver Santana Moss, and the late Sean Taylor. “Not like going out and getting sloppy wasted. Just adrenaline. You know, you take a shot and you were done with it. Me, Santana and Sean, we did this for a year and a half before anybody knew. We never told anybody. It was just, hey, here’s a little sip, bam, that was it.”
The drink of choice was Hennessy, and the tradition was sparked by a claim from Portis that he had one of his best games with the Broncos when he played with a hangover. Other players began doing it, and it continued until former coach Jim Zorn caught wind of it. Zorn believed they were doing it in honor of Taylor, who had since been killed as a result of a home invasion.
Portis defended the habit by pointing out that teams routinely pump players full of drugs.
“They give you shots [of medication], they give you all these pain meds, they give you all this [stuff],” Portis said. “Me, I didn’t take shots. You ask anybody. We needed to get an IV one time; it took me three hours to get an IV bag, because I hate needles. I don’t take meds. I don’t take shots. That just wasn’t me. So in pain or anything else, what did I do? You know what, I’ve got to play. Get my mind right, take my little sip, and I’m out of here.”
Moss downplayed the impact of the habit of taking a pregame shot.
“Once you get out there and all that adrenaline going on, that [alcohol] is out you, you know what I mean?” Moss said. “You’re taking all this Gatorade and water you don’t have it in your system no more . . . And that was just kind of having fun. You know what, let’s take that stress out of our heads and say let’s just have fun and not care so much. Because sometimes as players, you put so much pressure on yourself to go out there and perform. Man, let’s relax.”
They’re hardly alone when it comes to pre-game efforts to manage stress, especially in today’s climate. From the 60,000 fans who are scrutinizing what you do in the stadium to the hundreds of thousands watching at home to the millions with the ability to scream “you suck!” on social media whenever they want, players are processing plenty of stress — along with the constant risk of serious injury. It should surprise no one that guys in their early-to-mid-20s would take a shot of alcohol (or more) or smoke marijuana or do whatever they need to do to handle the intense mental and physical demands of playing in the NFL.