Arrington Is Eager, But Not Ready Yet

"I'm just happy to be here," said LaVar Arrington, who missed 12 games last season with injuries and is waiting to settle his 17-month contract dispute. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The face of the Washington Redskins was grim and dripping with sweat as LaVar Arrington underwent agility drills early in yesterday's practice at Redskins Park. Working out with defensive lineman Brandon Noble, who is also injured, Arrington zigzagged for a few yards, then jogged the length of a field near the main one where the rest of the team practiced.

The scenario was symbolic for the star linebacker whose contract dispute against the Redskins has stretched to 17 months and essentially kept Arrington separated from the front office. Both sides are attempting a resolution that would be concluded with a financial settlement this week.

Last season was just as strange as the offseason for Arrington. A bone bruise caused him to miss 12 games and the defense, with Lemar Marshall emerging from obscurity to fill in for Arrington, ranked third overall in the NFL.

"When LaVar Arrington gets back on the field, he's going to be an animal," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "He's going to go all out. He doesn't have anything to prove because obviously we all know he's a great player. But he's ready to get back on the field and be a great player."

Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine, said yesterday that Arrington was "progressing extremely well," without providing a time frame.

Arrington has declined to speak to the media since April, when he criticized the franchise for issues dealing with his injury and grievance, then admonished the media for how his remarks were construed. (Coach Joe Gibbs had denied Arrington's contentions, and said that Arrington was probably venting his frustration.)

Yesterday, Arrington offered a brief remark to a reporter, and said he would speak to the media extensively on another day. "I'm just happy to be here," Arrington said after practice. "I'm just glad to have a chance to get out there and give the fans what they are looking for."

Linebacker Marcus Washington was more expansive: "He's been going through some tough things, some things that don't really pertain to on-the-field stuff. He's just trying to concentrate more on on-the-field stuff. He's very happy to be here with the guys. He says he's feeling as good as he's felt with that knee. He's excited.

"Once he gets out there, playing heals a lot of stuff. And a lot of that stuff will go out the window. I think LaVar will feel a lot better mentally. And I know I'll feel a lot better mentally having him out there."

Despite Washington's stingy defense last season, the unit didn't make enough big plays and there is plenty of room for improvement. The defense produced 26 takeaways -- 18 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries -- better than only six clubs in the 16-team NFC.

"I've seen [Arrington] make a lot of big plays here," linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said. "So he can help us in the big-play department. He's a force to be reckoned with when he's healthy and he's playing right."

Still, he must fit into this defense. Gregg Williams's group flourished with several obscure players -- the regular season finale had eight starters whom Williams said weren't in the season opener -- and took pride in being a starless team. (Washington was the sole Pro Bowl selection.)


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