Redskins' Portis tells NFL Network he asked coaches to remove Sellers from a game

By Dan Steinberg
Sunday, February 7, 2010

One of the nearly forgotten, fun-time, happy-face episodes of the past Redskins season involved the locker-room infighting between Clinton Portis and Mike Sellers. This was many months before Portis and Jason Campbell exchanged barbs in the press. And this episode emerged mostly under the cover of anonymous sources, who told members of the media that the two men had a conflict after Portis asked coaches to bench Sellers during a game.

Even when Sellers later defended his play, he did so without mentioning Portis. And then-Coach Jim Zorn explained that the two guys loved each other, and that any conflict did not result from issues with Sellers's blocking.

But Portis -- love him or hate him -- never turns that honest button off, and so when the guys on the NFL Network asked him point-blank on Friday about his relationship with Sellers, the story finally came out, attached to his name, without the use of sources. And -- somewhat amazingly -- Portis admitted that yes, indeed, he went to coaches during a game and asked for Sellers to be benched.

"The Mike Sellers incident was blown out as well," Portis began. "Mike Sellers came to me and said, 'Get on guys.' You know, that was his message to me. He came to me, he said, 'Man, you need to be more of a vocal leader. Get on guys, tell guys to get it together.' I said, 'Mike, no, that's not me.' For three weeks in a row, I said, 'Mike, that's not me, I don't want to get into any confrontation with anybody.' He said, 'From me to anybody else, if you feel like somebody's lacking, let them know.'

"We got into the game, I felt like Mike was lacking," Portis continued, as the other set members tittered in disbelief. "I let Mike know that he was lacking. Listen, that's what he asked me to do, so I just asked him, I told him, I said, 'Mike, c'mon baby, I need you.' We went out, it happened again. Therefore I came to the sideline and I told them, I was like, I just didn't want a fullback in front of me, put me in one-back.

"And then they was like, 'Well, we want to run our game plan for two backs.' I said put Todd Yoder in front of me and run downhill. All of the sudden, Mike take that and, 'Whoooo, you trying to get me benched and you throwing me under the bus.' You just asked me to come tell you if I had a problem. I told you in the game. It's not like I didn't tell Mike. I told him during the game, 'C'mon, Mike, I need you.' And then I get to the sideline and it's like blown out. I guess a coach or somebody went back and told him, 'Oh, Clinton wanted you out of the game,' and then Mike addressed the situation."

I don't know, do NFL players regularly approach coaches during games and ask for players one year removed from the Pro Bowl to be benched? Maybe they do. But the other fellas on the NFL Network set seemed a bit taken aback.

"That might be a problem if I come to the set tomorrow and say I don't want to work with Warren Sapp, put Sapp on the bench and let me just sit right here with Marshall" Faulk, Deion Sanders said. "That might be a problem."

"It gonna be a problem," Sapp agreed. "It gonna be a little bit."

Anyhow, at least the story is officially out. And give Portis credit: He said he doesn't speak anonymously to members of the media, and he said he'll tell you what's on his mind.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company