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Thursday, December 15, 2011
Richie Petitbon gets Ring of Fame nod

Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- In the final dog days of another losing season, the Washington Redskins played the distraction game -- by trotting out a reminder from the glory days.

Out came the three polished Super Bowl trophies. In walked owner Dan Snyder to rattle off some statistics from an era before he bought the team.

The guest of honor: Richie Petitbon, the defensive coordinator whose name is on all three of those trophies. Petitbon will be inducted in the Redskins' "Ring of Fame" at halftime of the Christmas Eve game against the Minnesota Vikings, a ceremony that might motivate at least a few fans to show up for a matchup between teams whose combined record is currently 6-20.

"It hadn't been fun," said Petitbon, when asked what it's been like to follow the Redskins for the past 20 years.

He went on to say that he thinks the Redskins are "really on the right track" despite a 4-9 record in the second year under coach Mike Shanahan.

At least he gave an opinion. The two people in the room whose thoughts truly matter -- Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen -- scooted out the side door in a maneuver that might have eluded even one of Petitbon's best defenses. Allen later agreed to speak as he was walking off the field after practice, but he evaded every question about the team.

How frustrating has this year been?

"Well, we're going to play the Giants and looking forward to it," Allen said.

Allen has been dodging such questions since April, the last time he spoke to reporters about the current team.

When challenged that, as the general manager of the Redskins, he should actually talk about the team from time to time, he responded: "I always will. That's all I do talk about."

Allen was reminded of his January 2010 comment that finishing last back-to-back years "is not Redskins football" -- the reason he gave at the time for firing coach Jim Zorn. The Redskins are on the verge of repeating the dubious feat under Shanahan.

"We play the Giants," Allen said, "so maybe after the season, ask me about that."

As for Petitbon, there's no dispute he deserves a place of honor in Redskins lore. He ran the defense from 1978-92, mostly under Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. He was a part of all five Washington teams that have played in the Super Bowl, including one as a player in the early 1970s.

Petitbon took over as head coach after Gibbs quit, but his one season at the helm resulted in a 4-12 record that soured him from the game. He didn't coach again -- and wasn't even tempted to return when Gibbs emerged from retirement in 2004.

"Once you lose the will to put in the time and prepare, you have to get out," Petitbon said. "I lost that, and I just stayed out."

Petitbon will become the 45th member of the Ring of Fame, which has a sort of second-banana status in Washington sports history.

The traditional list of the city's sports greats is considered to be the Hall of Stars, which resides at RFK Stadium and Nationals Park. The Redskins started their own honor ring, which lists only people connected with the football team, after the team moved to the suburbs in 1997.

Allen seemed not to be interested in reconciliation.

"I don't see it as dueling," he said. "Richie's contributions to the five Super Bowl teams is significant, and for our fans and for his legacy, it belongs where it is."