Still practicing what he preached for so long, George Allen did not visit his old players here this weekend.

"I tried to avoid them," said the ex-Redskin coach, who now is a rookie television commentator.

Allen smiled. And he said with a laugh, "I didn't want to be a distraction."

Among the estimated 6 million things that might have been distractions to Allen the coach, one was pre-eminent: the press. Funny, the way things work. Let go by the Redskins last winter and fired by the Rams after two exhibition games this fall. Allen now is writing a weekly football column and working for CBS-TV.

He'd rather be coaching the Redskins.

He didn't say so yesterday. He didn't have to. In the television booth in Busch Stadium 1 1/2 hours before kickoff, he looked down on the field and said it was strange.

"I'd rather be out there," Allen said. He nodded toward a handful of distant figures in the burgundy slacks of the Redskins. "There's Mike Faulkiner (personnel scout). I brought him in as an intern. There's Stan Lavine (team doctor). And Joe Walton (offensive coordinator).

"Jeez, it's strange, me being up here and them down there."

Allen was making notes for his second telecast of the season. The pace was too slow for him.

"There's so much time," he said. "In this time. I could have had four meetings with the team. I'd talk to the linebackers, I'd talk to Billy (Kilmer) and Joe Theismann, I'd meet with the special teams, I'd . . .

The coach is still a coach. Checking out of his hotel yesterday morning, he ran into some of the Redskins. Brad Dusek said Allen, as always, asked about the linebacker's 2-year-old son, Bucky. Special teams star Pete Wysocki said, "He looked good, nice and relaxes. We're all happy he's doing so well."

Other than that chance meeting with a handful of Redskins, Allen did not speak to any other players or coaches.

"He really would have though it was a distraction," said Kilmer. "That's the way he always was."

Allen may have avoided the Redskins, but he certainly didn't forget them.

Someone mentioned that yesterday's game was a sellout, adding that the Redskins always sell out here. Allen misunderstood. He thought the reference was to the Redskins' home games, perennial sellouts since the 1960s.

At the thought, he fairly glowed.

"That's great, to walk onto the field and hear those standing ovations," he said. "And at RFK, the stands are right down next to the field."

Then it was an hour until kickoff, and a fellow in his 20s, the stage director, called an order to the man who only a year ago controlled every move, financial as well as personnel, of a business worth maybe $30 million.

"Mr Allen, down here, please," the kid said.

Turning to leave an interview, Allen laughed again.

"Got an assignment here, hut-hut," he said.

If Allen, the converted media freak, was considerate of the Redskins in the hours before a league game, he was no less kind on the air yesterday. He liked almost everything the Redskins did, with one notable exception.

Late in the third quarter, with the Redskins leading, 28-3, Coach Jack Pardee sent in Kilmer to replace the starting quarterback, Theismann.

In the CBS control booth, director Sandy Grossman spoke to his announcers through their headsets. "That's the first time all year that Kilmer has played," he said.

In an off-the-air remark back to the director, Allen said, "I'm sure (Kilmer) doesn't care to go in under this circumstance."

And on the air a minute later, play-by-play announcer Vince Scully said to Allen, "George, this is not a loaded question, but bringing in Kilmer now, isn't that like asking a star to mop up?"

Allen said, "I was thinking of that at halftime (when the Redskins led, 21-3). Normally, an old pro like that doesn't like to come in this circumstance. He can't come out ahead."

That was not the only time Allen demonstrated his long-term loyalty to Kilmer. The other commentator, Jim Brown, asked the old coach, "Why do you think Theismann beat out Kilmer?"

Allen stammered a bit, then said, "They think Kilmer would be better off the bench than Theismann would."

Brown quickly jumped on that, "I get a different feeling from players. They feel Kilmer is not maneuverable, but he's a good backup quarterback, but doesn't have long in his career."

Allen said nothing then.

Allen praised the Redskin offensive line, the running of John Riggins and Mike Thomas, the leadership of Chris Hanburger and Diron Talbert and the work of the entire defensive unit.

He seemed to have only one quarrel with his successor, Pardee (who, Allen pointed out, learned the game at Allen's knee).

"I'd rather have the quarterback call his own plays," Allen said during a general discussion, not speaking specifically of Pardee's sideline-calls system. "I think you get more leadership that way."

At game's end, the telecast producer, Bob Stenner, said he was general happy with Allen's two weeks' worth.

"But he and Jim haven't made as much progress as I'd hoped for," Stenner said, sounding like a football coach with a team not reaching its potential.

"George needs to work on his mechanics," the producer said.