Fourth-year LB going old-school with these young SkinsPosted: Thursday August 07, 2003 2:11 PM
He had a career-high 11 sacks and went to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, yet the 2002 season was trying at times for Redskins outside linebacker LaVar Arrington. Playing defensive end in passing situations in Marvin Lewis's defense felt foreign to him, and he sounded as if his heart wasn't always in the assignment. This year, Washington's new defensive coordinator, George Edwards, plans to keep Arrington at linebacker and use him in a role that will feature his impressive play-making skills similar to how they were showcased at Penn State.
Suddenly one of the Redskins' elder statesmen, Arrington has seen the grand expectations of three consecutive Washington seasons dashed. That's made him wary, but not weary. He still thinks greatness is just around the corner in D.C. SI.com's Don Banks talked with Arrington this week, as Washington continued its 2003 training camp at Redskin Park in Ashburn, Va.:
SI.com: When I say Lavar Arrington, linebacker, not rush defensive end, you say?
LA: That's beautiful. Sounds great to me.
SI.com: Looking back to last season, do you think you were miscast as a defensive end on passing downs?
LA: I just think that we did what was needed for the team. And that's the bottom line, whether I liked it or not. It was to try and make this team as good as we could possibly make it at that time.
SI.com: You made the Pro Bowl last year again, but in your heart did it feel like a Pro Bowl season for you?
LA: Yeah, heck yeah. Eleven sacks. I led all linebackers in sacks. Tied for the lead on the team in tackles. I'm going to do my part. But I could have been better, and that's the thing that bothered me. I tried to overcome a lot and I overcame a lot. But a Pro Bowl season, yeah, I know I had a Pro Bowl season. But I can do better though.
SI.com: Quick, without looking, who's your defensive coordinator?
LA: George Edwards.
SI.com: He makes it five defensive coordinators in five years for you, including your last season at Penn State. How much does it mean to you to at least be playing in the same defensive system two years in a row for the first time in your NFL career?
LA: Well it means more to have a coach that I had last year (when Edwards coached Redskins linebackers under defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis). Even if we decide to throw the whole system out and change things. I know the man who's coaching me. And we've gone through the wars together and been through the fires together. So that means more to me than having the same scheme two years running.
SI.com: Were you not one of the leading proponents for having George Edwards elevated to coordinator?
LA: I was probably the biggest spokesperson. But I'm sure there were a lot of them.
SI.com: How much is this defense going to miss "Big Daddy'' Dan Wilkinson and Daryl Gardener in the middle up front, and can you compensate for their loss?
LA: How do you not miss them? And can we compensate, we have to. So, yes. We will compensate.
SI.com: How many ex-Jets is too many ex-Jets?
LA: As good as the ex-Jets are that we got, you can never have too many. We got all the good ones, so maybe if we got any more it'd be one too many.
SI.com: Has your Washington experience taught you to temper your preseason expectations?
LA: I won't get as far ahead of myself on making predictions as I once did. But I'll never shy away from knowing how talented this team is and knowing what our capabilities are. On paper, we've had one of the best teams that you could possibly be on since I've been in the NFL. On paper. It's just time to show improvement. We're great on paper again this year. I'd rather be great on paper and have the opportunity to mess it up on the field, rather than not having anything on paper and going out there and seeing what happens.
I like the position we're in. It can't stay bad for too long. It gets dark outside, but it doesn't stay dark the whole day. Light has to come. Morning has to come. Daybreak has to come. We just have to weather the storm. And we may have. Last year might have been the last of the storm. I don't know yet. But I'd rather be in the situation we're in than the other way around. I think we're going to be fine. It's just a matter of time.
SI.com: Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but do you have a monster season in you at some point down the road?
LA: You know what, it's possible. I think that a monster season is all in what people think a monster season is. I think had we won the Super Bowl with the numbers I put up last year, you could consider that a monster year. A monster year is what people make it. I look at it like this, some of the things I do, some of the linebackers that people write about all the time, they don't do it. They can't do it. But yet they're the top linebackers in this league.
And to ask a linebacker to play defensive end, I mean that's not saying he's not good enough to play linebacker. That's saying he's versatile enough and we feel comfortable enough to put him at defensive end. So I take it as a compliment. It was tough. It was hard. But for me I don't worry so much about how people view how I play, because I know what I'm capable of doing and I know what I'm bringing to the table every time I go out there on the field. ... As far as my numbers and my production, being put in the situation I was put in, I think I exceeded what I was supposed to do.
SI.com: They say George Edwards is going to use you like you were used at Penn State. What is your understanding of your role this year?
LA: In the NFL, It's always been one phase but not the other. Either I get interceptions, or sacks, but not both. It has not been since college that somebody's rushed me and kept me up (as a linebacker). That's when I'm getting interceptions, I'm getting tackles, and I'm getting sacks too, because you're doing it all at the same time. I've not had that in the NFL, and I think with George he'll pretty much play me like (Penn State defensive coordinator) Jerry Sandusky played me.
When I had the Professor, the Mad Scientist had me doing a lot of that stuff. And they can call it free-lancing, and call it undisciplined all they want, but the bottom line is, his method was suitable to the way I played. And that's why I was able to make all the big plays that I made in college.
SI.com: Your 1999 senior season at Penn State wasn't that long ago, but because of all the turnover in Washington, does it feel like you're a fourth-year veteran with about 10 years of experience?
LA: It's like light years away, those days at Penn State. The funny thing is man, other than Champ (Bailey) and Jon Jansen (who both arrived in Washington in 1999), I'm like one of the originals around here. It's interesting, but that's the reality.
SI.com: So who on the club does the best Steve Spurrier impersonation? Is it you?
LA: No, I don't do one. I'd have to give the nod to Patrick Ramsey. He's pretty good. He's got it down. But then he's already got that Southern twang going for him.