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Arrington Lashes Out After 2nd Surgery

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page D01

Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington arrived at Redskins Park yesterday -- on crutches after a second, previously undisclosed surgery on his right knee -- and expressed concern with how the Washington Redskins have handled his recovery.

Arrington, 26, offered no timetable for his return to the field, and said that, because he worries about career-threatening ramifications from the injury, he will take as much time as necessary to heal.

LaVar Arrington is upset with the Redskins about how they have handled his recovery from knee surgery and fears it could be career-threatening without rest. (Evan Vucci - AP)

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In his first public comments since the season ended, Arrington criticized the Redskins for pushing him to return too quickly from surgery last fall and for how they have handled information about his condition, as well as an unrelated grievance he has filed with the players' union.

Coach Joe Gibbs asserted that in no way did the staff urge Arrington to rush back from his injury -- Gibbs said he repeatedly withheld Arrington from practices and workouts -- and that he was waiting to speak with Arrington before making news of his surgery public. Gibbs and Arrington spoke shortly after the coach became aware of his comments yesterday and, according to Gibbs, have resolved the issue. Arrington was unavailable for further comment last night.

"In terms of the support from [team officials], it's like nothing," Arrington said before leaving Redskins Park early this afternoon. "It's like, just let me disappear and die. To me it kind of [stinks]; it [stinks], because it's not like I have a relationship built with [the coaches] anyway, because they're new and then I get hurt and every year it's always someone new [as a head coach]. Does that mean it's right the way it's being handled? . . . It makes you wonder, man, what's their agenda?"

Arrington originally had meniscus removed from his knee by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews on Sept. 23 and started just two games last season. Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, said he is confident Arrington will be able to participate in training camp in late July and said this second procedure eliminated two "loose bodies" of cartilage in Arrington's knee that had been prolonging his rehabilitation and causing periodic discomfort. Arrington said he suffered his latest setback pushing himself to recover at the team's request. Gibbs said the linebacker recanted that assertion during their phone conversation, which took place around 6 p.m.

"Every single part of LaVar's injury has been treated with utmost caution," Gibbs said, "and I would say that from a Redskins standpoint, even LaVar has been mad at me because we've been so cautious . . . last year and this year, and we're taking a very cautious approach this year. We're going to err with the side of caution with this injury, and always have."

Gibbs said a teleconference with Andrews, Arrington and Tyer will take place today to ensure that all parties are "on the same page," and the plan is for Arrington to wait at least two months before attempting to run. Arrington, who was selected with the second overall pick in 2000, has played very little in the scheme of Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, and missed 11 straight games last season. The Redskins originally estimated that he would return in about two months.

"I'm taking as much time as I need, and if that means they're upset and want to get rid of me, then so be it," Arrington said. "But I'm not coming back before my knee is better. I tried it their way, and it got me on crutches again. Now I'm going to try it the way that Dr. Andrews and the rest of the medical staff want me to do, and that's the bottom line. People can be upset about it and be uncomfortable with it, but I'm taking as much time as I need. . . . I worked my [butt] off to get back on the field and for what? . . . It never ceases to amaze me the things that go on here, but I'm here and I still love the Redskins, that's the bottom line."

Gibbs said the development of a bone bruise in October prolonged Arrington's recovery, and Tyer said Arrington's slip on the field during his first practice back that month complicated matters. Gibbs said he repeatedly intervened to keep Arrington from participating in certain drills, and urged him to consider the ramifications. In December Arrington was deemed healthy enough to play, but after two appearances in a limited role, Arrington was inactive for the finale.

"Being the guy he is and the competitor he is, he wanted to play," Gibbs said. "But I told him, long-term, what's important to us is you, your health. Not just you as a player, but as a person."

During the offseason, Gibbs said Arrington had felt strong and would be pain-free for weeks, but then his symptoms would return, a cycle the team believes will be rectified by last week's surgery. Gibbs said he phoned Arrington last Wednesday after his surgery, and spoke at length with Andrews, but a message left at Arrington's hotel was not returned. Gibbs said he later contacted Arrington's personal assistant, hoping to speak with the player before deciding how to handle releasing the details of his surgery, but did not actually speak with him until this afternoon.

"I think if I get LaVar in here tomorrow and talk about some of these issues," Gibbs said, "he's going to say, 'Hey, Joe, I was emotional. . . . I shouldn't have said some of this, because it's not the way things played out around here.' "

When asked earlier in the day if he had gotten an opportunity to share his frustrations with Gibbs or hear the staff's thoughts on his feelings, Arrington said: "I don't really care, to be honest. I just care about getting healthy and trying to be able to play. I don't really care what anybody thinks at this point."

Arrington, who was named to three straight Pro Bowls before getting hurt last season, also questioned the degree to which team officials explained the severity of his injury throughout his recovery. "Why is it that nobody is really speaking about how hard and the sacrifices I put forth to try to get back out there?" he said. "They're so quick to talk about what we do wrong."

Arrington also implied that the Redskins have delayed a grievance he filed concerning a $6.5 million bonus payment he believes was agreed upon but did not appear in the wording of his contract. A date set for November was moved back at the Redskins' request, league sources said, and according to league and NFL Players Association officials no new date has been set. Gibbs declined to comment on that issue.

"You guys use your common sense," Arrington said to a small gathering of media members. "Why do you think they keep pushing it back? . . . Why do you guys think they keep pushing it back? For such a non-winnable situation and an asinine thing for me to do, why do you think it keeps getting pushed back? But I could care less about anything else other than my knee right now."

Redskins Note: Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents safety Sean Taylor and receiver Santana Moss, said he will not be making any comments about the status of the players, who are not attending voluntary workouts. Both players are under contract but seeking new deals, and league sources indicated that a long-term pact for Moss could be completed this week. Gibbs said the club is continuing attempts to get both players here as soon as possible.

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