By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Redskins running back Clinton Portis and fullback Mike Sellers had a heated exchange this week over Portis's frustration with Sellers's blocking this season, confronting the team with another potentially divisive issue as it prepares to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
No punches were thrown during the argument, which occurred Monday at Redskins Park, but the players had to be separated and restrained, according to the multiple sources. According to their account, Sellers confronted Portis after learning the team's star running back requested to have Sellers removed from the game during Sunday's 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field.
Portis and Sellers declined through a team spokesman to comment about the altercation.
Asked about the incident after practice Friday, Coach Jim Zorn played down the argument.
"These guys love each other. They absolutely love each other," Zorn said. "This is just how a team goes. I thought it was great. There's no fisticuffs. There's no shoving and pushing. These guys just, you know, ah, 'You didn't say hi to me.' 'No, you didn't say hi to me.' You know? I don't know really what the discussion was.
"In reality it's just a lot of nudging and posturing. It's just something that goes on. These guys are like brothers. And they care about each other. Seriously, it's not an issue."
The altercation was first reported Thursday night by WRC (Channel 4).
In a text message to a reporter, one source emphasized no punches were exchanged, and he played down the argument as players "simply letting off some steam."
But the Sellers-Portis incident underscores the tension at Redskins Park during a week in which Redskins owner Daniel Snyder hired an offensive consultant, Sherman Lewis, because of dissatisfaction with the poor point production of Zorn's offense, and in which defensive coordinator Greg Blache, a week after emphasizing the need for personal accountability, informed team officials he no longer would answer questions from reporters.
Speaking with members of the media is a mandated duty under NFL rules for all coordinators, but Redskins officials say the league okayed Blache handing over the responsibility to defensive backs coach Jerry Gray.
Zorn was asked if the sequence of events had created a perception that things aren't going well for the Redskins, who have a 2-2 record.
"Only if you [reporters] create that perception," Zorn said. "There's nothing in our locker room that would cite that"
While speaking with coaches during last Sunday's game, Portis requested to have blocking tight end Todd Yoder take Sellers's place in the backfield, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Apparently, Portis's frustration stemmed from an ill-fated fourth-and-goal play in the 19-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sept. 27 on which Sellers failed to execute his blocking assignment, Portis failed to score and Detroit took over on downs.
Sellers did not learn about Portis's request until after the game, sources said, and added that Sellers continued to play in the contest.
Many players were upset that Portis felt emboldened enough to make such a request, sources said, but the incident also served to highlight an apparent broader unhappiness with the running back among many of his teammates, who believe he holds himself to a different standard than them and often has simply chosen not to practice. These players say that Portis's behavior stems in part from his close relationship, at least in prior seasons, with Snyder.
Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, said during training camp that former coach Joe Gibbs jokingly referred to Portis as an assistant general manager.
On Wednesday, Portis said in jest that he had been "fired" from that post. "They released me from that duty," he said. "Right now, I'm just a part-time running back."
Portis has been a productive player throughout his career with the Denver Broncos and the Redskins but, according to sources, the sentiment among Redskins players is that he hasn't attained the type of superstar level that leads some players to set themselves apart from their teammates.
Portis has 218 yards on 72 carries through four games, putting him 10th in the league in rushing.
Redskins Notes: Punter Hunter Smith will be inactive Sunday because of a groin injury, and punter Glenn Pakulak will be signed off the practice squad, Zorn said after practice Friday. Smith, injured on his first punt last Sunday at FedEx Field, was unable to handle punting duties during practice this week, so the coaching staff will lean on Pakulak against the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
The Redskins must release someone from the 53-man roster to create room for Pakulak, who also will hold for place kicker Shaun Suisham, and the team plans to make those moves Saturday, Zorn said. . . .
Defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery (knee) will be inactive again this weekend, said Zorn, who added: "He's progressing. He's not quite ready, I'm going to put him down this week, but he's progressing to where he's actually got a chance in the next weeks to come to really make it tougher on me to make a decision. Right now, it's easy."
Montgomery has not played this season . . .
Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (elbow) is listed as questionable, Zorn said. . . . Rocky McIntosh was excused from practice Friday for personal reasons. . . .
The Redskins today worked out former Maryland running back Keon Lattimore, Ray Lewis's brother, but do not plan to sign him because they have no roster room, a league source said.