Clinton Portis on practice and Dan Snyder

October 7, 2013
(Courtesy of Hyon Smith)
(Courtesy of Hyon Smith)

I’ve written several times about the terrific roast of Joe Gibbs at Landsdowne a few weeks ago, the one held to raise money for the D.C. College Access Program.

Here’s yet another post on the event. This one, to me, shows that it’s easier to tell hilarious stories about the distant past than the recent past, because what might seem hilarious 30 years later seems bit uncomfortable after only six or seven years.

Clinton Portis was the only player from the Gibbs II era who spoke at the event, although at least one other — Derrick Dockery — was in the crowd. And while Portis was quite funny throughout, he also seemed to confirm many of the stories that were long whispered about his practice habits.

“I just always thought Coach Gibbs was a yes man, and the reason I always thought he was a yes man is every time I walked up to coach he would get this smile on his face and he would already be shaking his head,” Portis quipped. “So I would be like, yeah, I got him, I’m gonna get out of practice today. I would be walking up, like, what can I tell him, what hurt me today that he can’t really figure out?

Coach, I’ve got a headache. I’m like all right, he says yes to everything I ask….So I remember talking to coach, and I was buying into everything he said. When he called me about the trade, to bring me here and help out, he wanted me to be his running back, I was so excited, I remember seeing him in his hotel. I came, I had lunch with him — man, this is going to be great. And we went through the practice schedule, and the first thing he said was, this is not gonna be like Denver, we hit around here.

“I was like yeah, we hit too. [But] I didn’t know we was gonna wear pads. The day before we left for a game, we were in full pads, practicing. I was like maybe this ain’t for me. That’s what he used to tell me, this is real football.

“I asked about having an indoor facility. I told him when I first got here we needed turf fields. All this stuff that I had requests for, and he would shake his head and he would say, you’ve got to go talk to Dan down the hall about that. It was so often….

“I skip to the Cincinnati incident in preseason, and I really felt like I shouldn’t be in this game. And then I had gave him all week the reasons I shouldn’t be playing – coach, man, the season’s coming up, I’m poised to have a big season, I’m looking forward to it.

Yeah, Clinton, but we’ve got to see you in action out here.”

“I remember getting out and stretching, Coach Al Saunders, I told him, coach, I just don’t feel right, my hamstring’s tight. Coach Gibbs was standing right there, I said, coach, c’mon, don’t make me play.

We’re not gonna give you the ball, Clinton.”

“Third play of the game, we throw an interception, I chase it down, my shoulder come out….”

“So many times that I went into Coach Gibbs’s office with a story, and he was all for it when it was just me and him. ALL for it. Every time I went into his office, I left feeling like it was gonna be okay. [Derrick Dockery] would send me in – CP, go see if coach want us to be in pads today. I’d go upstairs, coach, don’t nobody want to be in pads. This is just from me and Dock’s conversation, I’m speaking for the whole team. Me and Dock decided we didn’t want to be in pads, I’d go up to coach, [and it] don’t look like we’re gonna be in pads. So I’d go down, Dock would be like, hey, what’d he say?

He said alright, we’re not gonna be in pads.”

“Then we’d look at the board: full pads. So I would have to go and do something on my own: first play, twist my ankle.”

There was lots of laughter throughout this. Including from Gibbs. But it seemed to confirm a whole lot of stories. Gibbs himself spoke at length about Portis during his speech, and also drew laughter.

“Let me say this, out of all the players I coached, I don’t think ANYBODY, EVER, would do the things Clinton would do,” Gibbs said to guffaws. “I would be out at practice, man, I’m fired up, we’re at practice, going as hard as we can. When I came [back], I’d been out 11 years. I got ‘em back in pads, and Clinton had been in Denver, where they practiced in pajamas.

“So I would be out and I would hear behind me a little voice going, coaaaach. Who is that? I would turn around, and it’d be Clinton, and he’d go, why do we have these on? And I would go, what? And he goes, these, and would point to the shoulder pads. I go, Clinton, because that’s what we play in, okay?”

But lest there be any doubt, both men were saying this all in good fun, and closed with strong words of praise for the other.

“Clinton knows football,” Gibbs said. “I will say this: I can honestly say this, [if] I told John [Riggins] that we had a play he was gonna have to block in and I called it, he would call timeout. John wanted the football. Let me have the football. So we had to go to the one back because of John, we had nobody else. This guy [Portis] without the ball was as unselfish as anybody I’ve ever coached. This guy would hammer you as a back. And I always appreciated one thing about Clinton: from Monday to Saturday he would halfway drive you crazy, ok? But on Sunday, when we got dressed, and you looked into his eyes, this guy was ready to go. He was unselfish without the ball, and he would hammer people, and those quarterbacks loved him on pass protection. So anyway, Clinton, thank you for that, I appreciate it man.”

And here’s Portis.

“So many situations I could give you for a roast, but tonight I would rather take the toast route and share my appreciation for Coach Gibbs, and just being thankful for coach,” the running back said. “He was like the pops that I never had. I think he gave me the opportunity to come here and lead an organization that I was clueless about, and to learn the history of all the guys in front of me. To even come close to Riggo’s record, to be able to chase him and being able to sit on a stage with him tonight, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Coach Gibbs.”

“Thanks for the trade,” Portis concluded. “I know I’d still be running wild if I would have stayed in Denver, but thanks for bringing me here.”

Like I said, there were peals of laughter throughout all of this. Still seemed interesting.

Previously: Roast stories about Gibbs, Gibbs on Kornheiser, Dexter Manley gets emotional.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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