By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010; D07
In his first full day on the job, Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan made clear one principle that will govern his tenure: Any problems between members of the organization will remain internal.
"We're Redskins," Shanahan said during his introductory news conference Wednesday. "If we've got any problems, they stay within our football team. Nobody goes outside the football team. It's going to be a strong, disciplined football team. I can guarantee you that."
That is exactly the opposite of what happened between quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Clinton Portis on Tuesday in the hours before Shanahan signed a five-year contract to become the next coach of the team. Responding to Portis's shots at his leadership abilities in a radio interview Tuesday, Campbell blasted Portis for his poor work ethic and lack of understanding about "what real leadership is." Although Portis called Campbell to apologize and Campbell said he just wants "to squash this whole thing and get ready to work for next season," the rift between the team's top offensive players surfaced publicly just as Shanahan begins to evaluate the roster.
"Yes, I am" aware of the Portis-Campbell situation, Shanahan said while speaking with reporters in a small gathering after his news conference. "I think in time, what I'll do is talk to the football team. We'll talk about, 'Hey, if we've got some problems, some business, we'll keep it inside, keep it inside the organization.'
"I understand how that happens. But what you have to do is you have to talk about these problems before they happen. They happen all the time. Some organizations, they don't happen; some organizations, they do. And I think the players will get the message that Redskins will stay together."
Whether the future includes both Portis and Campbell remains to be seen. Portis missed the latter half of the season because of health problems stemming from a concussion he suffered Nov. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Even before he was injured, though, Portis struggled, in large part because he was not in top condition, many within the organization said. Portis, who was drafted by Shanahan's Broncos in the second round in 2002, played in just eight games this season. He finished with career lows in carries (124), yards (494) and touchdowns (one), and Shanahan also engineered the trade with the Redskins that moved Portis out of Denver in exchange for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick.
Some Redskins have expressed resentment of Portis because of what they perceive to be a cozy relationship with owner Daniel Snyder and a lack of commitment to in-season practice and offseason workout programs. Portis has a base salary of about $7.2 million in 2010, $6.4 million of which is guaranteed. He has roster and workout bonuses of a little more than $500,000. The Redskins have "offset" language in Portis's contract, so the amount they owe him would be reduced if he were released and another team signed him.
Asked about Portis's standing, Shanahan said: "Well, it's hard to say that right now. I got to go back and look at all the film. Just to watch a game and not be around Clinton in the offseason program, not watch him on a day-to-day basis, would not be fair to him, would not be fair to you, me judging him. I think like all players, as they get older, I think the key is how they work in the offseason program, what they do to make themselves better as all veterans.
"I've been around some veterans that are very successful and then all of sudden they quit working out, and as a running back, you can fall off the cliff. If you make the commitment that you're going to be the best that you can possibly be, where you've got passion, you've got work ethic to be as good as you possibly can be, then you've got a chance to be something special. Looking at Clinton a year ago, the first half of the season, you could see how well he played. And to say that right now with the injuries and what's happened would be obviously premature at this time."
Shanahan was more complimentary of Campbell, who just completed his fifth year in the league and set career highs in almost all key categories: completions (327), completion percentage (64.5), yards (3,618), touchdowns (20) and passer rating (86.4). Most of those numbers put him in the middle of the pack among NFL starters. Campbell also threw more interceptions (15) and took more sacks (43) than in any season of his career. If next season were played without a salary cap, Campbell would become a restricted free agent because he has less than six years of service. That means the Redskins could match any other team's offer.
"I just love the way Jason handles himself," Shanahan said. "I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching film and going through every play that he's had throughout his career, and looking forward to sitting down and talking with him. Hopefully the best years are ahead. But that's a process that will take some time."
Staff writers Barry Svrluga and Rick Maese contributed to this report.