Portis, Zorn Settle Their Differences

Running back, coach clash over playing time

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis has met with first-year coach Jim Zorn to sort out their differences, according to quarterback Jason Campbell.
Campbell said the matter has been settled and that the whole issue has "died out already."
The two spoke after Zorn addressed a team meeting Wednesday morning concerning the first significant locker-room crisis of his head coaching career.
In a radio interview Tuesday, Portis expressed his frustrations over his lack of playing time in Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The NFL's third-leading rusher criticized Zorn for inconsistent handling of players and sarcastically called the coach a "genius."
After the Ravens game, Zorn said Portis' lack of time on the practice field finally caught up to him, questioning his blocking and release reads in the backfield.  Zorn said Ladell Betts was a better option during pass plays as the team tried to mount a comeback.
Portis wasn't injured during the game, he said, and he was confused by the reasons Zorn gave for sitting him in the second half.
"Outside Jim Zorn and the coaches on that team and maybe the quarterbacks, I guarantee I know that system better than anybody else," he said. "I guarantee when I go for blitz pickup, I don't miss my man."
Portis said he got the sense his absence from practice was tolerated up until this past week. 
"One day it's fun, it's nice, you smile, you're happy for me. You appreciate the way I play on the field. You just wish I would practice," Portis said. "If I could practice, I'd practice. If my injuries weren't legit, then the trainer wouldn't hold me out. They'd have me on the field.
"What I need to be around for is Sunday, so that's what I try to be around for," he continued. "If you have a problem with me not practicing and not doing it that way, and you feel you need to split ties with me, then split ties with me.  But don't sit here and throw me out like I don't pay attention and I don't know what's going on, like I'm making mistakes, like I'm the problem."
Portis seemed frustrated by his lack of production and by the team's poor second half of the season.  After starting 6-2, the Redskins have lost four of their last five and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
Portis racked up 944 yards in the first eight games of the season. Since then, he's been limited to just 316 in five games.  The losing and lack of productivity seem to have boiled over.
"That's some BS to go out and say I don't know what's going on," Portis said.  "When have I missed a meeting? Let me start missing meetings. Let me not get out to practice. Let me sit my ass in the training room if I don't know what's going on. What am I standing outside for?
"If my coaches feel like I can't get it done, put me on the sideline.  You feel like I can help this team, put me on the field.  That's all I have to say about it.
"Maybe I'm the problem.  Since I don't practice and since I'm the only person who don't practice and come out and play and give what I got, maybe I'm the problem. Maybe I need to be on IR."
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.
Zorn 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," 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."

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.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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