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Zorn, Portis Bury Hatchet

Redskins Coach, Running Back Say Issue Is Behind Them

The Washington Post's Jason Reid weighs-in on the growing rift between Clinton Portis and Jim Zorn following Portis's public statements on the radio Tuesday. Video by washingtonpost.com
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By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008

A day after lashing out at Washington Redskins Coach Jim Zorn in a radio interview, running back Clinton Portis and Zorn said they resolved their differences yesterday at Redskins Park as the struggling team tried to remain focused in an effort to salvage its season.

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Zorn and Portis met after a team meeting before practice, during which Zorn -- prompted by Portis's pointed criticism of Zorn's communication and decision making during his weekly appearance on ESPN 980's "The John Thompson Show" -- encouraged his players to "stay together" despite a 1-4 slide that has dropped the Redskins (7-6) into last place in the NFC East and behind four teams for one of the conference's two wild-card berths.

Washington's team captains also led a players-only session earlier in the morning.

Quickly encircled by reporters and TV cameramen after practice, Portis often made light of his harsh comments that stemmed from Zorn's decision to bench him during the second half of Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Zorn said he didn't play the running back because Portis missed significant practice time the previous week with injuries.

Zorn and Portis shook hands and laughed after they emerged from their meeting, according to players who observed the interaction, and Portis said he was "cool with everything."

Portis was asked if the matter potentially could be a distraction with the Redskins beginning preparations to face the Cincinnati Bengals (1-11-1) on Sunday.

"Uh, a distraction from what?" Portis said. "We've done lost four out of our last five games, so if it's a distraction, what else can we do? We can't do nothing but win, now.

"I wasn't hoping to accomplish nothing. It was something on my chest that I needed to get off, and I did. So now that was yesterday; today, I'm at work. We're getting ready to play the Cincinnati Bengals."

Similarly, Zorn preferred to move forward after Portis's latest outburst provided another challenging situation in the most trying stretch of his brief head coaching career.

"He was confused about where he stood," Zorn said. "The real issue is, 'Just come in and talk.' I really believe that as coaches, if players don't come in, if they don't actually be proactive and come to us, sometimes it's hard to read, 'cause everybody's upset about a lot. This has been something that I think, 'Has he not done this in the past?'

"That's a way that he's operated. He doesn't need to operate that way, in my mind. He feels like he's stuck, and part of it is, and this is what I addressed our football team with, it's all about losing. Winning doesn't bring this out. Losing does. And it's nothing we deserve. Nobody deserves that, but that's what losing does. Everybody gets upset. Everybody has a feeling. Everybody has an opinion. That's our problem. You know what remedies all this? Winning. That's what we want to do."

Portis, the NFL's third-leading rusher with 1,260 yards, has been hampered by an array of physical problems this season, including knee, hip and neck injuries. In explaining his reasoning for leaning heavily on backup running back Ladell Betts against the Ravens, Zorn said Betts was more precisely releasing from pass protection into route running. Those comments infuriated Portis, who in the offseason was guaranteed about $20 million through 2010 as part of a restructured contract that helped the Redskins get under the salary cap.

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