There was a time in the spring when football-starved Washington Redskins fans, subsisting solely on a diet of unsourced offseason reports and speculation, were left to envision LaRon Landry wearing another team's colors in 2010. His name was linked to trade talks between the Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles. Two team sources also indicated that Landry was led to believe the Buffalo Bills also might have been a possible landing spot, if he didn't improve.
Five weeks into the season, the Redskins have certainly benefited from Landry's presence. He was named NFC defensive player of the week Wednesday, and to hear Coach Mike Shanahan tell it now, there was no chance the Redskins were ever going to let Landry go.
The fourth-year safety certainly heard the rumors. Upset by the speculation, he briefly left the team's offseason conditioning program in April and wasn't pacified until he met with Shanahan later that month.
"I told LaRon, 'There may be some rumors and speculation, but I can guarantee you, you will not be traded,' " Shanahan said on Wednesday.
Landry and linebacker London Fletcher were two players who jumped off the film when the team's coaches first moved into Redskins Park, said one league source. Part of the reason the team altered its defensive scheme so drastically was to put Landry in better position to make big plays.
So far, he certainly has. While the Washington defense is giving up a league-high 410 yards per game, Landry has shined in the team's first five games.
"From my perspective, I did not want to play against him," Shanahan said of his early impression of Landry. "That makes it very easy when you see a guy out there and you say, 'I don't want him on another team that I have to play.' "
Landry, who turns 26 on Thursday, earned the NFC's top defensive honors last week for his performance against the Green Bay Packers. He was credited with a game-high 13 tackles - 10 unassisted - and produced both Redskins turnovers during a 16-13 overtime victory. Early in the game, he forced a fumble that gave Washington possession of the football at the Packers 21-yard line. And on Green Bay's final drive in overtime, Landry intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass, which gave the Redskins the ball at the Packers 39-yard line and set up the game-winning field goal.
The NFL doesn't consider tackles an official statistic, but according to the league's numbers, Landry leads the league with 41 unassisted tackles and is second in total tackles with 52. (According to the team's numbers, which are based on coaches' review of game video, Landry has played a role in 61 tackles, including a team-high 46 unassisted.)
"It feels great," Landry said of his early-season performance. "I moved back to my natural position. And the scheme fits me well. I feel comfortable back there."
Landry played the past 2Â½ seasons at free safety but is now lining up as strong safety in Jim Haslett's defense. It didn't take long for Landry to show a knack for gravitating to the ball.
"You'd think, watching him, he's been in this system for four or five years," said cornerback DeAngelo Hall. "He just feels that great in it."