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Campbell fires back at Portis about leadership

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6, 2010; D06

Responding to star running back Clinton Portis's shots at his leadership skills Tuesday, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell blasted Portis for his poor work ethic and lack of understanding about "what real leadership is."

In his regularly scheduled appearance on ESPN 980's "The John Thompson Show," Portis criticized teammates who this week expressed frustration with the "star treatment" he is perceived to receive from owner Daniel Snyder and then seemed to critique Campbell's leadership abilities.

"No disrespect to Jason," Portis said while speaking with co-hosts Thompson and Doc Walker. "But everybody in that locker room can tell you, you'll never see Jason mad, you'll never see Jason's tempo change, you'll never see Jason get mad. He going to get up, dust himself off; he going to give you everything he got. But as a leader, you never heard -- it was always, 'Jason couldn't take control of the huddle,' or he didn't do this or he didn't do that. That wasn't Jason's character."

Informed of Portis's comments, Campbell, selected one of six team captains by teammates the last two seasons, called out Portis for putting himself above the team and, in his opinion, an overall lack of professionalism Portis has exhibited in Campbell's five seasons in Washington.

"How is he going to say I'm not a leader?" Campbell said in a lengthy telephone interview. "I mean, that's just not true. To me, that's somebody who shows that they don't know what a real leader is. A leader is not someone who leads by the wrong example. A leader is someone who is trying to do the right thing and trying to lead by example, and not just [being] about themselves. There's a reason guys get selected as captains, and there's a reason guys don't get selected as captains. Obviously, he doesn't have the respect of the locker room to be a captain. For someone to try to take a shot at me at the end of the season, after they haven't even been around, only speaks about their character anyways."

"There have been a lot of things I could have come out and said. But I never went out of my way to make those things known. I never wanted those things to leave the locker room because it's no one else's business. And for those things to be said, questioning my character and questioning my leadership, I think that's not the way to go, especially when you're supposed to be a team guy. Is that being a good teammate? If that's the case, why is no one questioning my leadership and everyone is questioning his work ethic?"

In a text message late Tuesday night, Campbell said Portis called him to clear the air. Campbell declined to reveal the specifics of his conversation with Portis, but said "we're just going to move on. We don't want to have any issues out there between us for the offseason, so we're just going to squash all of this right now."

Portis missed the remainder of the season because of health problems stemming from a concussion he suffered Nov. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons. Following the firing of coach Jim Zorn on Monday, several players said the culture of the organization must change before the Redskins could return to prominence.

Veteran leaders Rock Cartwright, Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn spoke of the team's discipline problems, and Portis's seemingly cozy relationship with Snyder has stirred resentment in the locker room because he rarely practices. Campbell, who was not in the locker room Monday, is "not ready for that situation," Portis said of the quarterback's captaincy. "I think Jason has enough trouble in getting the plays in and worrying about this, compared to controlling the huddle and making sure, 'Oh, we do this and we do that.' But you go and vote Jason Campbell [as captain] -- you know Jason Campbell ain't go and tell the coach, 'Well, we need to do this or we need to do that,' or 'This is how the players want it.' The only person I think would do it is London Fletcher."

Campbell took issue with this assertion, as well.

"We [all the captains] do go to the coaches. It's not our fault if the coaches decide they're not going to" do what the captains suggest, Campbell said. "But we have some guys who go above the coaches. And that's another problem. You have some players who are not team players."

During a 16-13 victory Oct. 4 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Portis went to coaches in an effort to have Pro Bowl fullback Mike Sellers demoted for what Portis deemed to be poor blocking. Sellers eventually confronted Portis during a locker-room exchange in which no punches were thrown, team sources said, but Sellers essentially told Portis his teammates did not respect him because of his me-first approach.

"Not one time have I come out and made any excuses about anything with my situation," Campbell said. "I never do anything to try to hurt my teammates. Some people need to stop being 'me' guys and start being 'we' guys. And another thing, and I want you to write this, too, how does he even know what's going on with our team?"

"How's he [going to] question anything when for those four or five weeks before he was on IR [the season-ending injured-reserve list], he never even came around. He wasn't with us. He was never at practice. Who does he think was holding the offense together? He should go ask the coaches and the players if he wants to know. But he wasn't around to do that. He doesn't know anything about leadership."

Campbell said he was disappointed about airing private team matters in public, and especially frustrated that Portis would verbally attack him with the Redskins preparing to make a long-anticipated announcement that former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has been hired as their next head coach.

"You've got guys out there working their butts off, guys out there practicing and doing everything they need to do to prepare for Sundays, and you see him over there getting special treatment," Campbell said of Portis. "What does that say about him? I go out, I get beat down on Sundays, and I still have to go out and practice and get ready for games. And that's what your supposed to do."

Staff writer Rick Maese contributed to this report.

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