According to Joseph White of the AP, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis and head coach Jim Zorn met privately to settle their differences.
Miffed for several days over his lack of playing time in last week’s 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Portis unleashed his frustrations about the coach’s methods in a radio interview Tuesday, a threat to team chemistry heading into Sunday’s must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Wednesday began with team captains addressing a players-only meeting called before the Portis saga erupted. Zorn then addressed the team before meeting with Portis. According to kick returner Rock Cartwright, Zorn fessed up somewhat, admitting his own comments might have helped stoke the Portis tiff.
“Coach Zorn said he might have said some things he shouldn’t have said,” Cartwright said, “so both guys had some comments that they probably wish they didn’t say. But what can you do now? It’s already out there. It’s been said, so just move forward from it.”
Zorn and Portis were expected to address reporters following practice in the afternoon.
Portis, third in the NFL in rushing with 1,260 yards, had only 11 carries for 32 yards against the Ravens and was taken out of the game after the first drive of the second half. Zorn said Portis’ lack of practice was starting to reflect in the running back’s performance—particularly in the passing game. So the coach went with backups Ladell Betts and Mike Sellers.
Portis has barely practiced for several weeks because of knee, rib and neck injuries. He has yet to miss a game.
He vigorously defended himself Tuesday on WTEM-AM. He said he knew the offense as well as just about anybody and accused Zorn of sending mixed messages. He sarcastically called Zorn a “genius” and said of the coaching staff: “I don’t think they know what they want me to do.”
The episode had a chance to turn ugly. Portis has always been outspoken and has become the high-paid face of the franchise. He was mentioned as a league MVP candidate earlier this season, when he was on pace for more than 1,800 yards and the team was 6-2.
Zorn, meanwhile, is finding his way after being promoted to head coach without ever serving as a coordinator. The coach is brutally honest when assessing players in public, and he didn’t hesitate to berate Portis on the sideline earlier this season when Portis took himself out of a game without Zorn’s knowledge.
“He’s going through his first year as a head coach in this league. He’s learning,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “There’s things he’s trying to adapt to. Us as players, we’re trying to adapt to him also. Sometimes there are things that guys have to sit down and talk to each other about and make sure we’re on the same page.”
It doesn’t help that the Redskins (7-6) have lost four of five to fall to last place in the NFC East. The last thing they need is a distraction.
“We’ve already met as a team; Clinton and coach Zorn have already met,” Campbell said. “From a standpoint of the team, the issue has died out already. But from the outside world, it’ll probably go on for the rest of the week.”
Ironically, Portis’ lack of carries against the Ravens left him healthy enough to practice Wednesday. He was on the field in a helmet and red sweat pants as the Redskins began the workout.