Theismann on Clinton Portis vs. Brian Mitchell
"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....
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