Portis, James set for battle

Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis aren't comparing notes this week.

The University of Miami pals usually call each other all the time, offering ad hoc scouting reports on opponents past and future. One can only imagine what the conversations are like when two elite backs are talking shop.

"Everybody else that we play, it's 'What do you see?' 'What you think?' 'What works?'" Portis said. "This week, I'm sure neither one of us is going to give each other advice on how to help defeat the other team."

Of course not. James' Arizona Cardinals and Portis' Washington Redskins are going head-to-head today, offering a treat for running back aficionados. James and Portis are two of only six players in league history to average at least 110 total yards from scrimmage per game.

"It's enjoyable because I know he's playing against a great defense," Portis said, "and he knows I'm playing against a great defense, so it's always a competition."

James ranks fourth on the list with an average of 115.6 yards, while Portis is sixth at 111.5 among backs who have played a minimum of 85 games. Nos. 1, 3 and 5 — Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton — are in the Hall of Fame. LaDainian Tomlinson is No. 2.

James has been easy to overlook this season because Kurt Warner is back to his old self at quarterback, leading the Cardinals to 23-13 and 31-10 victories with downfield passes to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. James has 44 carries for 155 yards, a modest 3.5 average, although last week he became the 14th player in league history to reach 15,000 scrimmage yards.

Portis, like the rest of the Redskins offense, picked up his game in Week 2 after a difficult opener. He ran for 96 yards in a victory against the New Orleans Saints, giving him 180 yards on 44 carries for a 4.1 average.

"Watching Clinton Portis strain for the extra yard can fire you right up," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said. "That is what a running back is made for in this game."

Portis has been in the news for other reasons. Last week, he made remarks to The Washington Post that could have been interpreted as an insult to his offensive line or his team's offensive scheme. Then, on Tuesday, he and former Redskins kick returner Brian Mitchell had a testy exchange on a radio show, with Portis upset over the way he had been criticized by Mitchell.

"He said what he had to say," Portis said. "I said what I had to say, and that's pretty much it."

Portis added that he has no problem with his linemen or the Redskins organization.

"If they had a problem with me, they wouldn't have gone out and blocked," Portis said. "If I was calling my linemen out, why didn't they quit on me?

"Portis wants to be here. If Portis wanted to be somewhere else, I'd be somewhere else."

Both squabbles were readily dismissed in light of the team's performance in the 29-24 win over the Saints, a game Portis said was just a taste of things to come.

"Just knowing this offense can get better is exciting," he said. "It's just a matter of doing it, week-in and week-out."

Today's game

WHO: Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1).

WHEN: 1 p.m.

TV: Fox 35 43.