Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said he remains perplexed by his lack of playing time this season -- he said he was used in only two plays in Sunday's 20-17 overtime win over Seattle -- but vowed yesterday at Redskins Park not to let that become a distraction.
Maintaining that he is "100 percent healthy" after missing nearly a year with knee injuries, Arrington quashed reports from Sunday's game telecast that a refusal to play special teams contributed to his situation ("I'll do whatever I can to help the team," he said) and said he has received no firm answers for his drop down the depth chart.
"If the direction [of the team] is going away from me and going toward other things," said Arrington, 27, "then as a man I have to accept that and have to move on and figure out what's next for me if that's the situation that's in front of me. But by no means am I going to sit here and whine and complain."
Several NFL executives and player agents had predicted Arrington's benching as a precursor to his release. He had been mired in a lengthy grievance over his eight-year, $68 million contract that was only recently resolved, and clashed with the organization over the handling of his injuries last season. Arrington, the second overall pick in the 2000 draft, carries a $12 million salary cap figure for 2006, and while cutting him in the offseason could result in an $11 million cap hit in 2006, the Redskins have endured such penalties in the past to create future cap room. Arrington has a $6.5 million roster bonus due in July, sources said, and cutting him before then would save the Redskins $7 million in actual dollars (including Arrington's 2006 base salary).
The defense has thrived in his absence -- Arrington has played only two full games since this coaching staff took over before the 2004 season -- and Arrington's playing time has diminished in each game this season, with him getting on the field for successive plays in the second quarter against Seattle and spending the rest of the afternoon on the sidelines with his helmet off and nary a grass stain on his uniform. Chris Clemons is playing in many of the situations Arrington did in Week 1.
"I'm a part of the team," Arrington said, "and however they want to use me is up to them. I'm here. I don't want my situation to be a distraction and a problem. We're 3-0, and obviously what we're doing, something is right. Do I hate being off the field? Of course. I hate not playing, but what can I do? I don't make those decisions. The finger gets pointed at me like, 'Why aren't you playing, LaVar?' Or, 'What is LaVar doing wrong not to be playing?' I'm here on time, I don't get in trouble off the field, and I don't get in trouble on the field. I do what I'm asked to do. Right now I'm asked to sit and watch, and that's what I'm doing."
Linebackers coach Dale Lindsey has been frustrated by the focus on an individual player -- "He'll play more when his number is called. That's all there is to say. Everybody is looking for something that isn't there." Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, has about 22 packages ready on game day; yesterday, Arrington used the word "package" -- minus the "s" -- to describe his spot in the game plan.
Coach Joe Gibbs, who spoke with Arrington yesterday morning, said he understands that there may be concerns, but said other talented defenders deserve to be in the packages as well.
"I know he's disappointed not making more of an impact, not playing more," Gibbs said. "It's something we just have to work our way through. I think our defensive schemes are trying to use all of our people. In this case, I could see people saying, 'Hey, I don't understand that.' But I think it's just something we're working our way through as we scheme it up. It's just one of those things."