- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

IRVING, Texas — Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman, the three players who revived the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, were inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime of last night’s game against the Washington Redskins.

The opponent was fitting — and not just because the Redskins and Cowboys have been rivals for years.

Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington ended Aikman’s career with a jarring tackle Dec. 10, 2001. Washington cornerback Shawn Springs, then with Seattle, helped tackle Smith on the play when he became the NFL career rushing leader Oct. 27, 2002. And Smith’s last game after 13 years with the Cowboys came nine weeks after that at FedEx Field. Plus, at that same stadium, Irvin made two of his last three touchdown catches in Dallas’ stunning comeback in the 1999 opener.

“I always looked up to those guys,” said Springs, who met the “Triplets” as a teenager because his father, Ron, had played for Dallas in the 1980s. “Michael used to laugh when I would cover him because he had known me when I was so much younger. But I actually did pretty well against him.”

Aikman was 12-8 against the Redskins and had a career-high five touchdown passes in that 41-35 overtime triumph in 1999. But the next season, he didn’t see Arrington before it was too late to avoid the hit that caused his last concussion.

“I was just a rookie, and I don’t think Troy realized how fast I was,” Arrington said. “We’ve seen each other a lot since then [because Aikman broadcasts games for Fox], and we joke about the play, but you never want to hurt someone.”

As for Smith, Arrington said he always admired how hard the 5-foot-9 back ran. Smith gained 100 yards in half of his 24 games against the Redskins, averaging 101.7 and scoring 23 touchdowns.

“I gave Emmitt a hug after his last game [with Dallas] and told him I was proud to have played against him,” Arrington said of Smith, who got the biggest hand from the crowd last night.

Smith, the Cowboys’ first-round choice in the 1990 draft, a year after Aikman and two years after Irvin, played two years for Arizona before retiring last winter. Like Aikman, Irvin had his career come to a more sudden stop. Four weeks after that 1999 opener, he suffered a neck injury in Philadelphia and never played again.

Irvin is now an NFL analyst for ESPN and recently appeared in the remake of “The Longest Yard.” Smith just began working for the NFL Network.

Irvin, Aikman and Smith starred on the Cowboys’ Super Bowl champions in 1992, 1993 and 1995. Only New England has matched that run of three Super Bowl victories in four seasons (2001, 2003, 2004).

The induction of the “Triplets” raised the membership of the Ring of Honor to 14. Previous members Tony Dorsett, Cliff Harris, Bob Lilly, Don Perkins, Mel Renfro, Roger Staubach, Randy White and Rayfield Wright were in attendance.

Prioleau goes down

Redskins safety Pierson Prioleau pulled a hamstring trying to tackle Cowboys running back Julius Jones on the opening drive and didn’t return. Matt Bowen, who started the first five games last season before injuring a knee, replaced Prioleau.

Arrington starts

Arrington, a Pro Bowl pick from 2001 to 2003, started at weakside linebacker for the Redskins for the first time since Week 2 last year. Arrington underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after that game and returned in a backup role for two games in December. Arrington was a reserve behind Warrick Holdman in last week’s season-opening victory over Chicago.

Novak debuts

Former Maryland kicker Nick Novak, who kicked a 49-yarder in the Cowboys’ preseason finale Sept. 1 at Texas Stadium, made his NFL regular-season debut for the Redskins last night. Novak was signed a week ago today after John Hall injured a quadriceps on the last kickoff of the season-opening victory over Chicago.

The most on Mondays

Last night’s game was the 14th between Washington and Dallas on “Monday Night Football,” tying the Denver-Oakland series for the most matchups during the ABC broadcast’s 36 seasons. Dallas has an 8-6 advantage after the victory with a 4-2 edge at Texas Stadium.

Clark inactive again

Redskins safety Ryan Clark wasn’t kidding when he said last week there was no point in interviewing him because he wouldn’t be playing in Dallas. Clark, who didn’t miss a game because of injury during his first three seasons, sprained his knee twice during preseason and wasn’t deemed ready to return in time for last week’s opener. Clark, who started the final 11 games of 2004, was available to play last night after practicing all week but was inactive again.

Aside from Clark, Hall and defensive tackle Brandon Noble, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee; running back Nehemiah Broughton; defensive end Nic Clemons; linebacker Zak Keasey; offensive lineman Jim Molinaro; and defensive end Nic Clemons were inactive, along with third quarterback Jason Campbell.

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