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Clinton Portis says Redskins were divided under Jim Zorn because of religion

WASHBURN, Va. -- Former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis on Tuesday said ex-coach Jim Zorn lost the players' support because he split the locker room based on faith.

Portis, during his weekly appearance on ESPN980, said Zorn, who coached the Redskins in 2008-09 before being fired, divided the locker room between "Christians and ballplayers."

"So if you didn't believe in what he believed in, if you weren't Antwaan Randle El, if you weren't the guys who sat and prayed with him and did everything the way they thought your life should be, you kind of got, 'Well, you're not doing right' speeches directed toward you," Portis said.

The Redskins won six of their first eight games under Zorn, only to finish 8-8 before falling to 4-12 his second season. Under Zorn, Portis rushed for 1,487 yards in 2008 -- the third-best total of his career. He played in only eight games because of injuries in the second season.

"I'm grown," Portis said. "I can do what I want to do. I don't have a police record. If I don't get in no trouble, don't assume the way that I live my life, don't preach to me about what's right. Because you're not right, you're phony, you're sitting here in my face telling me one thing and then you go behind my back and say something else."

Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, a co-host on the show in which Portis appeared, said on the air that his ex-teammate wasn't wrong. Cooley, however, said Zorn did not do it with intent or by saying, "I want Christians."

"But he sold his pitch," Cooley said. "His sales pitch was: 'Believe in and have faith in my program.' And it was basically a sales pitch to a Christian team. It wasn't, 'We're going to be smart. We're going to adapt. We're going to make sense.'

"Literally any time there was anything that came up on offense that was, 'Hmm, this doesn't make any sense, Jim. Why are we doing this?' [The answer] was, 'This was how Bill Walsh did it.' Much like saying, 'Go to the Bible and read it.' It was the West Coast Bible that he sold over and over and over again."

Both Cooley and Portis also played for Joe Gibbs, whose devotion to faith is well-known.

"I'm fine with praying in moments of turmoil," Cooley said. "But the way Joe Gibbs sold his team was to football players and guys believing in each other, not believing in a system and a coaching base with it. ... [Zorn's system] was designed around the way a religion is designed: faith."