Portis, Riggins continue war of words
ASHBURN, Va. -- On his 28th birthday, Clinton Portis was trying to be low-key. No big party this year. "I'm going to mind my business," he said Tuesday as he walked off the Washington Redskins practice field.
But at the mention of the word "Riggo," he wasn't about to bite his tongue.
Portis kept up his running feud with Hall of Fame running back John Riggins on Tuesday. Portis, who has a chance to overtake Riggins this year as the franchise's all-time leading rusher, is clearly getting tired of being criticized by the legend he's pursuing.
"I think he was a great running back, but, you know, think of who else was around him," Portis said. "That was really not hard to be a great running back when you've got that talent all around you. I think they just had great teams, you know. I think everybody who played in that era as a running back is big around here."
Riggins rushed for 7,472 yards in the 1970s and '80s for the Redskins, much of it behind the stalwart offensive line known as the Hogs. Portis needs 1,370 yards to take the No. 1 spot.
As a radio commentator in retirement, Riggins hasn't been shy about criticizing any and all facets of his former team. Among his comments about Portis, Riggins in January called Portis "a headache" who needs to change "the way he views himself and views his contributions to the team."
"The idea for him to be a legend, and to hate as much as he hate," Portis said. "To be upset that I'm on his tracks, for the comments or the ill will that he has toward me and don't know me. You know, it's crazy. You did your thing. The people around here love you, and I'm not trying to replace you. I don't want to be you. Your background check and my background check are totally different, so I really don't feel like he can comment on nothing I do."
Call it the tat-for-tat between two flamboyant backs. Riggins is remembered for his unpredictable ways as a player, including the banquet at which he supposedly told U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to "loosen up, Sandy baby." The height of Portis' showmanship came when he wore costumes every week during his media sessions during the homestretch of the 2005 season.
"It ain't no ill will," Portis said. "I'm minding my business, and hopefully he'll do the same. ... He deserves to be a legend. And I can see why the town appreciates him when you put in that kind of work for an organization and the fans are that crazy about you. You should be appreciated."
Portis got in similar contretemps with another former Redskins standout last year, confronting longtime teammate Brian Mitchell on the radio over Mitchell's critical comments. Portis also derisively called coach Jim Zorn a "genius" after getting benched in the second half of a game, riled some teammates by saying the team "overlooked" the struggling St. Louis Rams, and irked the offensive line when he speculated what it would be like to run in a different scheme.
After all that complaining, Portis has been keeping quiet this preseason. He went bowling Monday night as an early birthday treat and planned to have dinner Tuesday night "somewhere where I can do a suit and tie." That's quite a switch from the year he spent $200,000 on his special day, including a party at the Kennedy Center.
"I just feel wiser. I just feel I'm at a calm state in my life," Portis said. "Early 20s is wide open, if you want women, you want partying, you want the cars. Now it's just another day."
Portis has taken a jaded view toward the media in recent years, having decided that he'll always be criticized no matter what he says or does. On the field, the numbers are impressive: He persevered through knee, rib and neck injuries to rush for 1,487 yards last year and made the Pro Bowl. This year, he's expected to give way to backup Ladell Betts on many passing downs.
"The things that I'm asked to do, that's what I do," Portis said. "I'm not trying to go above and beyond it. My opinion: If there's somebody I have a problem with, I'll speak my piece to him. If somebody got a problem with me, they speak their piece to me. It avoids all the attention."
Unless, it seems, that person is John Riggins.
NOTES:LB London Fletcher will have a minor procedure to inject medicine into his foot and will miss Thursday's final exhibition game against Jacksonville. Zorn said Fletcher had a similar procedure last year. Fletcher is expected to recover in time for the regular season opener Sept. 13. ... DT Albert Haynesworth missed practice for the third straight day with a stomach illness. He will not travel to Jacksonville. "He's still a little bit weezy, but definitely a lot better," Zorn said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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