Feb 12, 2005, 1:40 AM EST
Despite an acrimonious departure from the team in 1999, Brian Mitchell will retire as a Washington Redskin. From the DC Post:
The Washington Redskins announced yesterday that former running back Brian Mitchell will officially retire as a member of the team on Wednesday, bringing closure to what was a damaged relationship between the popular player and the franchise. Mitchell, a standout return specialist who spent 10 seasons in Washington, will sign with the Redskins on Wednesday and then announce his retirement at a news conference at Redskins Park
Mitchell was cut from the Redskins following the 1999 season in what was the signature move of the early Dan Snyder years. He was axed to create salary cap room for the signing of Deion Sanders .
At the time, Mitchell had some bad words for Snyder and the Redskins, but he’s put it all behind him. He told WTEM radio:
I started here. I played 10 years here. My home is here. I never wanted to leave Washington. I wanted to retire as a Redskin way back. Things changed. I left upset and with an attitude, but you get over things, and I made a phone call to Dan Snyder and expressed what I wanted to do, and he agreed with it.
He has compiled some pretty impressive career stats. From the AP
Mitchell holds NFL records for combined kick return yards (19,013), combined kick returns (1,070), combined kick returns for a touchdown (13), kickoff return yards (14,014), kickoff returns (607), punt return yards (4,999), punt returns (463) and fair catches (231). He was also the leader in all-purpose yards (23,330) until Jerry Rice (23,546) passed him in December.
Compiled numbers are one thing, snapshots in the memory are another. Two of them stand out. One was in 1991, his first game as the full-time punt returner. In the season opener, he returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown and he made it look easy, getting a forward burst of speed after fielding the kick, making a cut and that was it. Then, in his last game as a Redskin, getting the second-half kickoff down the right sideline for a touchdown that gave his team a 13-0 lead against the Bucs. They would relinquish that lead and lose 14-13.
The big returns, however, are not his enduring legacy. Mitchell achieved his record numbers not by breaking a bunch of long returns, but by getting a 15-yard punt return when the blocking would have netted the average returner nine, by ploughing into the pile on a kickoff return to get an extra four yards of field position for the Redskins. Multiply that by his 1,070 combined kick returns and you have a lot of extra yards.
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