As I was driving back to Redskins Park from Antwaan Randle El‘s charity event today, I was listening to Clinton Portis‘s appearance on the John Thompson Show on ESPN980. Portis was clearly frustrated — with the team’s losing, with being benched (or “benched,” depending on who you ask), with his head coach — and he wasn’t hiding it.
I was surprised at his candor, but — as the show progressed — fairly impressed with what I perceived at the time as his restraint in not completely unleashing those frustrations. When I got back to the Park, I was immediately made aware that my interpretation of the broadcast was emphatically NOT that of the general public.
“Did you see the twenty page thread on ExtremeSkins?!?!?!” someone asked. “Portis just KILLED Zorn on the radio,” someone else said.
I still don’t buy it. Take the much-repeated implication that Portis said that he should go on IR: he was clearly, CLEARLY being sarcastic, and Coach Thompson calls him on it immediately. That was the tone I caught through most of what he said, and it’s a tone that Portis uses a lot.
More to the point, I would both hope and expect that Portis would be upset at not being put in the game, something Zorn addressed in HIS response later, also on ESPN980.
- Zorn:Well, anytime you don’t go in, that’s the way you feel. And he is a big part of our offense, and he’s sitting on the bench, he’s gotta feel like he’s benched. I don’t blame him for that.
Andy Pollin: Do you feel like you’re on the same page as him right now?
Zorn:Well, when you have a player who wants to play — he’s an every-down back; that’s the way he sees himself, and that’s the way we see him — he needs to be on the field. I felt the same way when I played: if I wasn’t on the field, I didn’t think there was a chance.
That’s when the hosts mentioned the previous interview, that Portis felt like he didn’t have open lines of communication, and that he should just be put on IR if he wasn’t being used. So they asked Zorn what he thought of that.
- Zorn:That we put him on injured reserve? No, I think he’s gotten himself healthy, I think he felt a lot better after this game, and I’m looking forward to having him out there on every snap practicing getting ready for the Cincinnati Bengals so we can utilize him as our every down back.
Steve Czaban: Is he healthy enough to practice this week?
Steve Czaban:So he will practice?
Zorn: Absolutely. From what I understand from our trainers, his knee is fine, his neck is no longer stiff, and from what I understand, he’ll be ready to go.
And then they asked how much it had hurt him not practicing.
- Zorn:That’s hard to say, because the first couple of weeks when he didn’t practice, I mean, he gained 145 yards, and the second week he gained 123 yards, but I think as the time went on, it wasn’t that we weren’t getting the running ability.
It was just, he was doing great things of blocking, and– his effort was high. I mean, he would tell you this, and I agree with him wholeheartedly: when he is playing the game, he’s giving you his best effort. And I’ve said this over and over: he’s very wicked on the football field. He’s what you want.
But what I wanted on the field on Sunday — and he had been out, I mean, each week I felt like in certain parts of the game, he was getting out on routes, but it wasn’t exact and quick, and I thought, “Okay, here’s an opportunity for us to get Ladell in,” who has practiced and he knows it just because he’s rehearsed it and rehearsed it.
I think he’s a confident player and he would believe he could do it without reps; I just made the decision not to give him that chance.
On the whole, the Portis thing was less than optimal at this point, yes. Obviously, things are better when your team’s star running back is NOT questioning the lines of communication with the head coach.
But I stand by my initial impression while I listened live: it was a frustrated guy blowing off some steam, and far from the end of the world. Besides, the last time Clinton Portis got involved in a radio fracas, he followed it not long after with some of the best running of his recent career. If that happens again, the team will be actively encouraging him to call in and insult people.