Petitbon enters new era worry-free Redskins camp opens with few changes


CARLISLE, Pa. -- At the end of his first practice as head coach of the Washington Redskins yesterday, Richie Petitbon described his approach to coaching.

His philosophy didn't come from Joe Gibbs, the former Redskins coach who won three Super Bowls, but from John Wooden, the former UCLA coach who won 10 national basketball championships.

"If you worry too much, you're not ready to take the chances that you have to do when it really counts," Petitbon said. "I don't think you can ever be afraid to lose or you'll never win. That's a John Wooden quote. I kind of follow that philosophy."

He went on to call Wooden "the greatest coach who ever lived in any sport. I happened to be playing for the Rams when he was out there and I think the guy was just a coaching genius. He won with all types of people. He won with different styles. I was always an admirer. He changed tempo as well as any coach I've ever seen."

Although Wooden may be the coach he most admires, he knows Gibbs, who resigned as the Redskins coach on March 5, is the coach he's going to be measured against. The comparisons don't seem to bother him.

"I just think I have a job to do," Petitbon said. "My criteria is I'm going to do whatever is best for the Washington Redskins."

He does duck questions about Gibbs' habit of sleeping three nights a week at Redskin Park during the season. That's not Petitbon's style, but he doesn't want anybody to think that means he won't be working as hard as Gibbs did.

"I think I'll keep my sleeping habits to myself," he said.

Although the team is now using a two-back set and some shorter passing routes, the Redskins' practice routine didn't seem to change much. After all, the team still has all of the same assistant coaches.

"To tell you the truth, the only thing I've noticed is that I don't think I'm going to have to worry about a parking place," Petitbon said.

As head coach, he is driven around the Dickinson college campus by an aide.

Petitbon even liked the fact it rained on his first practice. He liked the cooler weather.

"This is really a break. The sun is so tough when guys have pads on the first time," he said.

He also didn't seem to mind that there were three fights in the afternoon drill, including a feature bout between running back Earnest Byner and safety Terry Hoage.

"I don't know whether that's good or bad," Petitbon said of the fights. "Overall, I was pleased [with practice]."

The players also didn't notice much change, although they're curious about what the Petitbon regime will be like.

"I think Petitbon has his favorites just like Coach Gibbs had, so it'll be interesting to see how the cream flows," Byner said.

"The atmosphere is the same," said defensive lineman Eric Williams. "The major thing that's different is the personality of the head coach."

Although Petitbon is considered more volatile than Gibbs, cornerback Darrell Green said he doesn't think the difference should be exaggerated.

"He's not going to bite anybody's head off," Green said. "Let's clear up that perception. He's not some mean guy. You're not going to see some weird thing.

For one day at least, all the Redskins saw was business as usual.

NOTES: Running back Ricky Ervins remained the team's only holdout, and no progress was reported in his negotiations with management.

In his absence, Brian Mitchell and rookie Reggie Brooks, who both ripped off long runs yesterday, are trying to get a jump on him.

As usual, veteran wide receiver Art Monk, who rarely talks to the media, declined comment. Even with Desmond Howard sidelined because of a strained groin, Monk worked with the second unit behind Ricky Sanders and Tim McGee.


Richie Petitbon became the 18th coach in Redskins history when he succeeded Joe Gibbs on March 5.

A look at his background:

Age: 55

Hometown: New Orleans

College: All-Southeastern Conference quarterback at Tulane

Pros: Defensive back with Chicago Bears (1959-68), Los Angeles Rams (1969-70), Redskins (1971-72). Four-time Pro Bowler, he had 48 career interceptions.

Coaching: Defensive backs coach, Houston Oilers (1974-77); joined Redskins in 1978 and took over defense in 1981.

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