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Redskins attempt a family reunion by reaching out to players of the past
"I don't know if that decision was made on high or not, but I've already seen results when it comes to keeping the old guys more involved," Rypien said in a telephone interview from his home in Spokane, Wash. "I will say this: When the old guys poked their heads in at the old Redskins Park and the new one, it made a difference. You knew you were upholding a tradition that meant something. So if that's improving, great for everyone."
During the interview last week, Snyder walked in and sat down next to Allen, asking, "Have you ever seen pictures of him on the sidelines [when Allen was a teenager]? Wanna see a picture of him in a Larry Brown jersey? True Redskins fan."
Acquainted with each other since Snyder purchased the team more than a decade ago -- "We've been friends for a long time," the owner said -- the two began bantering about the ridiculous things they wore as fans of the team during the Redskins' halcyon days.
"I used to tell Bruce, 'Why are you with them?' " Snyder said, referring to Allen's positions with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Asked if he had tried to hire him before, he added with a half-smile, "No comment."
In his commitment to restoring any damaged history, Allen has received guidance along the way.
Rick "Doc" Walker, the team's former tight end on its first championship team and now a local media personality, met with Allen the first week after he took the job for almost two hours at a Virginia restaurant.
"I tried to give him my synopsis of the 30-year history of the organization and how it's gone," Walker said. "The overall consensus was that people didn't feel welcome there like they used to. And that had to change, in my opinion. We used to have barbecues when Jack Kent Cooke owned the team. We need more of that. See, that's part of the brand. The brand is what it's all about."
The brand has taken some hits lately, and not just because of 4-12 last season.
One player who is not planning to attend June 17 is Arrington, co-host of his own radio show, opposite's Snyder's station, on WJFK radio's 106.7 FM. (Full disclosure: I co-host a show there, too).
"Dan Snyder has to talk to me before I do anything for a team that he owns," said Arrington, who cites a deep, personal rift with the owner. "Unofficially, I am very involved with a lot of the players. Talking to and mentoring former teammates, whatever they need. But before I ever do anything or go to a practice, I need to talk to Dan Snyder and be heard. There would have to be a discussion where a lot of issues are resolved."
Arrington's stance shows Allen also inherited something else: sore feelings of many alumni, including Riggins, who on national television last year said Snyder had, "a dark heart."
Allen doesn't know all the fences that have been up since his father's teams enraptured Washington. But he keenly understands why people still care, why they still want to belong.
"We're welcoming back all our players and coaches," he said. "It's because of Joe Gibbs, it's because of Ted Marchibroda when he was the offensive coordinator, that fans are wearing their burgundy and gold. I get a lot of letters from people who remember Sammy Baugh, so we have that fan base too.
"It not because of what we did this week. It's because of what they did in the past."