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Decision To Release Ryan Torain A Difficult One For Mike Shanahan

By ZAC BOYER | | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – When Mike Shanahan took over as head coach of the Washington Redskins prior to last season, he saw to it that Ryan Torain, a fifth-round selection of his in Denver in 2008, would be welcome on his new team.


Torain, out of football in 2009, was released after just one year in Denver after spraining the PCL in his left knee in training camp. Shanahan invited him to offseason workouts and signed him to the practice squad early in 2010 before promoting him to the active roster in late September.

He finished last season as the Redskins’ leading rusher, picking up 742 yards and four touchdowns, and was the favorite to take over as the team’s starting running back when the five-month owners’ lockout ended.

But the Redskins traded for Tim Hightower, who earned that role in training camp as Torain battled a broken bone in his left hand, and the 6-foot-1, 218-pounder was gradually phased out of Washington’s plans. On Tuesday, the Redskins officially released Torain, leaving the running game to rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster.

“You’ve got to make some tough decisions sometimes,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been around Ryan for a number of years and am really pulling for the guy because he’s a great guy. He’s been hampered by injuries here and there, but the way he prepares, the way he works – he’s a guy you want on your football team.”

Torain, 25, had 200 yards and a touchdown on 59 carries this season – a 3.4 yards-per-carry average. But he had 135 of those yards and that touchdown against St. Louis on Oct. 2 and only managed 65 yards on 40 carries the remainder of the season.

Helu had three consecutive 100-yard games beginning Nov. 27 at Seattle and Royster picked up 132 yards on 19 carries with Helu inactive Saturday against Minnesota.

That game, in which Torain rushed four times for eight yards, was his last in Washington.

“I think he’s still got a chance to play in the National Football League,” Shanahan said. “He’s proven that he can average anywhere between four and a half and five yards a carry, but right now, with the depth that we have, I felt it was in our best interests to go in another direction.”