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Theismann on Clinton Portis vs. Brian Mitchell

Theismann, Jack Kent Cooke, Riggo, Gibbs. (AP file photo)

"Joe Gibbs let Mark Moseley, Art Monk, John Riggins and myself sit inside on a cold, cold day of practice while the defense was working." Joe Theismann told me yesterday. "We were treated special. One day we said, 'Jeez, it'd be great to go inside,' so we go inside and have hot chocolate. We were winning, Joe never said anything. We sat watching soap operas and drinking hot chocolate while the defense was out practicing."

I was talking with Theismann outside a Connecticut Avenue Starbucks yesterday afternoon. He was in town promoting prostate awareness, and a free prostate screening and locker room tour being offered at FedEx Field on Sept. 27. He was promoting it rather loudly.

"I got involved with the campaign that we have about four years ago when I was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, and I was getting up in the middle of the night, going to the bathroom, doing all the things that guys do, and I found out that I had an enlarged prostate," he told me. "Now, did it mean that it would lead to prostate cancer? Not necessarily, because there's no stats that say that, but I look at it this way: it's an area that needs to constantly be monitored. All I'm simply trying to do is get guys in their 40s to go to their doctors, make their appointments."

Then he started talking about the importance of digital rectal exams. So, guys, go get your prostate screening. But in other news, I asked about this week's biggest Internet Redskins story: Brian Mitchell vs. Clinton Portis. Theismann hadn't heard the segment, but I filled him in on the general idea.

"I guess I've done this before: I've made the mistake before of saying things without really understanding why," Theismann said, concerning the critique of Portis's practice habits. "A lot of times outside observations and opinions are wrong."

Then he told me about some of his memorable confrontations with athletes who were upset with his commentary.

"I said some things about Keyshawn [Johnson]," Theismann told me. "This was my last year in broadcasting. He comes into the room, he's standing above me, and he says, 'The first thing I want to do is clear something up.' He said, 'I don't appreciate what you said.' It had to do with his suspensions in Tampa, and he said, 'You don't really know what happened down there, all you know is I was suspended, but you don't know the reasons why, and you judged me, and that was wrong.' And I said to him, 'You know what? You're right. I apologize to you.'

"And this is the kind of situation you get into with Clinton and B-Mitch. I don't want to use the male vernacular so much, but you know, which one has the bigger unit. One guy's trying to say I'm a bigger whatchamacallit than you. It seems like we've seen enough of those things on Redskins blogs lately."

Indeed, we have. But Theismann also said there were times when he criticized athletes based on facts-on-the-field, and for those he wouldn't back down.

"I criticized guys for 22 years, and the only guy that ever called me out, seriously, was Mark Rypien," Theismann said. "Ryp had a great year, which I lauded him for. The next year he was the 18th-rated quarterback in the NFC....And he got mad at me, he said, 'How dare you say those things?' And I said, 'Look, how dare you play so crappy?'

"I mean, what am I supposed to say? Do these things lie? I mean, my job and obligation is to the fan, but it has to be founded, and this is the problem I have a little bit with Brian's situation."

This when Theismann started telling me how star players were treated in the Gibbs regime, when once a week he and Riggo and Monk and Moseley would head inside for hot cocoa and soaps. I asked whether they were criticized for not practicing with their teammates who remained on the field.

"No, because no one ever knew," he said. "Look, starting in 1982, we go 12-1, 16-2, 11-5. What's there to criticize? Do you criticize a system that's working so well? And we never took advantage of it. I mean, he granted us the right to get off the field instead of standing out in 20 degree temperatures, and the defense would run 30 plays. Well that's 30 minutes...I mean, what's the sense of Mark standing outside just to say, 'Oh, be a part of the team?' That's where common sense and trying to show power are different.

"But yeah, I've been involved in situations like this. I just have no problem with what Clinton does, I have no problem with him being a personality, I don't have any problem with that whatsoever. I don't have any problem with the way an athlete trains today, because it's entirely different than when Mitch was playing and when I was playing. It's a 12-month job. It wasn't then. Certainly wasn't when I played. When I got in the league in '74, I went to seven weeks of training camp, that was for getting in shape."

I asked whether he would report to camp in poor shape.

"I never was but I played with a lot of Redskins who were, I can tell you that."

They struggled in drills?

"Oh God, what drills?" Theismann said. "Our weight room consisted of a universal gym. Guys used to walk in, walk by and say, 'Oh, what a workout!' The things today, 10,000-square foot weight rooms? Ours was probably 600 square feet. Why take up good space for weights. I sat between Mike Bass and Pat Fischer; first day of practice, both of 'em come from practice and they light up cigarettes."

In the locker room?

"Oh yeah," Theismann said. "They had their ashtrays. Pat's fingers were so yellow from smoking. He used to take Tuff Skin--he didn't wear a mouthpiece--he'd tuck it down in his lip like you put in snuff or something, that's what [he'd use]. And when he'd hit people, he'd bite on the Tuff Skin. And he'd drink orange Gatorade, and he'd look like this monster, he'd have this crap running out of his mouth. Oh yeah. It was a whole different [world].

"What guys today have to understand, and I hear fellas reference it so often, "Well, back then....Well, back then....' Well, it isn't back then, it's today. And if you really want to do a good job, get current on what's going on today. Who are the athletes today, what are they like, what are they thinking?"

More from Theismann later....

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 18, 2008; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  Media , Redskins  
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Hot damn, I've said it for years. Pat Fisher belongs in the HOF.

Posted by: CHICO | September 18, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff SteinBog you truly are a Redskins Insider

Posted by: jonthefisherman | September 18, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"This was my last year in broadcasting." and "I criticized guys for 22 years.."

Steinz, he's talking like he's done broadcasting forever. He's done? The guy was doing MNF two years ago and that's it?

If this is true, talk about going out with a whimper and not a bang. Or in his case, a terrible compound bang.

Posted by: Dan Levy | September 18, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dan Levy check yo self before you wreck yo self

from wikipedia
In 1985, Theismann helped call Super Bowl XIX for ABC alongside Frank Gifford and Don Meredith. Theismann served as a color commentator on ESPN's Sunday Night Football telecasts from 1988 to 2005, and on their Monday Night Football coverage in 2006.

On March 26, 2007, ESPN announced that Ron Jaworski would replace Theismann in the Monday Night Football booth. Theismann rejected an offer to work on the network's college football coverage. He has since done a number of Washington Redskins pre-season games on CSN.

In addition to covering football, he hosted the first season of American Gladiators in 1989.

Posted by: jonthefisherman | September 18, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I find it funny you left the American Gladiators part in there.

Posted by: Big Goob | September 18, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

God this is so much better than the crap on insider.

Posted by: BMAC | September 18, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Joey T better watch what he say. He lucky dat Keyshawn din't steal him.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Who would want to steal a slightly used Theismann? Aren't there better things to steal like mp3's and stuff?

Right...I forgot. A person who played for Tampa!!

Posted by: Sterling Park | September 18, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I heard some more of the altercation between Portis and Mitchell today on ESPN. Quite a different tone than the quotes I read in the paper. I thought Portis made some good points.

The fact is Mitchell goes far beyond a" reporter just doing his job", he bad mouths people from the skins horribly, and has had a thing for Portis since 2004.It's one thing to say a player played bad, but something else to say things like "Potis needs to shut his mouth" or Portis has no heart"
Portis probably hit the nail on the head when he said "my pocket's tight". Mitch is probably jealous of the job CP has, and the fact that he made 10 times more money than B-Mitch ever did. Mark Schlereth commented on it after they played it on ESPN and essentially mirrored what Joe said. The fact is that RBs today don't play in the pre-season, but that doesn't mean CP isn't giving it his all. Anyobdy who has watched him play for the skins knows he leaves it on the field.

Posted by: Jason | September 18, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Really good stuff, Steinz. Glad to have you back in the states.

Posted by: Jenks | September 18, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"More from Theisman later"

Where's the rest? Coffee break's over.

Posted by: Bob | September 19, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Good read, uh, could you take over Redskins Insider for us? We'd appreciate some good blogs like this once in a while. Guest appearance? Something? We're dying over there!

Posted by: Don | September 20, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

It is always entertaining to hear from the Redskin greats. Those stories and old NFL Films about the Glory Days of our proud franchise never fail to raise a chill or make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I kind of feel the same every time the Skins pull out a win and look as though they are finally turning the corner towards renewed respectability. I too would like to hear more from former Redskins as their insights seem to put the modern game in perspective in ways all of the 24 hour talking heads cannot.
In response to the allegations that LaCanfordawhatever has attempted to sabotage our Skins: If he did it, let's run him out of town BUT make sure we don't replace him with Jay Mariotti.

Posted by: Riggins44 | September 22, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

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