Tuesday, December 9, 2008 Updated: December 10, 2:14 PM ET
Portis unloads frustration on Redskins coach Zorn
ESPN.com news services
WASHINGTON -- Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis unleashed a load of frustration toward rookie coach Jim Zorn on Tuesday, criticizing him for giving inconsistent messages and sarcastically calling Zorn a "genius."
Portis, in his weekly appearance on ESPN 980 radio, was still smarting from his lack of playing time in Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, when he was removed from the game after the first series of the second half.
"Either you feel like you need to sever ties with me -- split ties with me -- but don't sit here and throw me out like I don't pay attention, like I don't know what's going on, like I'm making mistakes, like I'm the problem," Portis said. "It is what it is, bro."
Portis, third in the NFL in rushing with 1,260 yards, had only 11 carries for 32 yards Sunday. His strong start to the season -- five consecutive 120-yard games from Weeks 4 through 8 -- helped lead the Redskins to a 6-2 start, but he has barely practiced over the past few weeks because of injuries to his knee, ribs and neck. He has not missed a game but has tallied only 54 yards the past two weeks for the Redskins (7-6), who have lost four of five.
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Zorn said Monday he did not use Portis for most of the second half against the Ravens because Portis' lack of practice time had finally caught up to the running back. The coach said Portis had stayed in to block too long instead of going out for a pass on some occasions in the first half.
Zorn went instead with backup Ladell Betts, whom the coach felt was in better position to handle the pass plays that quarterback Jason Campbell and the Redskins were attempting with a two-touchdown deficit.
Portis begged to differ with the coach's assessment.
"Jason on his [butt] all game long, you try to stay in and help, then it's 'Aw, you should have gone out.' ... If he's over there and can't breathe and unconscious where he done got the wind knocked out of him from being sacked, then it's 'Aw you got to help out, you've got to chip,'" Portis said. "So I don't think they know what they want me to do."
Portis also denied that his lack of practice time was affecting his performance. He said he had not missed a meeting and attended every practice, even though he was unable to suit up. He noted that his inability to practice wasn't an issue while the team was playing well.
"Outside of Jim Zorn and the coaches on that team and maybe the quarterbacks, I guarantee you I know our system better than anybody else," Portis said. "I guarantee you when we go into blitz pickup, I don't miss my man. So I don't know what it is. If anybody's got a problem with me, they need to talk to me. I don't know what's going on."
Portis was almost derisive when asked if teams have figured out how to defend Zorn's offense after the team's hot start.
"We got a genius for a head coach, I don't know, so I'm sure he's on top of things," Portis said. "He's got everything figured out. All I can do is when he calls the plays is to try and execute to the best of my ability."
Portis also implied that Zorn's offense might be too complex.
"We got 25 protections, so maybe that's why the O-line's sometime confused," Portis said. "Maybe that's why I don't understand what's going on -- since I don't understand what's going on."
Zorn appeared on the radio station later in the day and responded to some of Portis' remarks.
"He's a big part of our offense, and he's sitting on the bench," Zorn said. "He's going to feel like he's benched. I don't blame him for that. ... He's an every-down back, that's the way he sees himself and that's the way we see him. He needs to be on the field. I felt the same way when I played."
Zorn said he anticipated Portis practicing this week and playing as an every-down back in the upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
That was about the only point on which he and his disgruntled player agreed.
"I'm totally healthy after not playing against Baltimore," Portis said. "The thing about it, I'll be at practice tomorrow."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.