Work in Sports
Redskins get what they wanted
Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 09:45 PM
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- In less than 20 minutes, the Washington Redskins added two impressive starters to a team already considered a Super Bowl contender. Those smiles and hearty rounds of applause in the war room weren't just for show.
Mining a rare draft-day gold vein that came about after a series of trades over the past few years, the Redskins chose Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington at No. 2 overall and Alabama tackle Chris Samuels at No. 3 in Saturday's NFL draft.
Not long afterward, owner Dan Snyder celebrated his first NFL draft by lighting a cigar, crossing his legs and propping his feet on the desk.
"When you look at the two guys, that's why our war room looked like it did," coach Norv Turner said. "It's really hard to please an entire room, but in a half-hour period, we pleased the defensive staff with Arrington and turned around and pleased the offensive staff with Samuels."
The Redskins' one major concern was alleviated when the Cleveland Browns opted for Arrington's Nittany Lions teammate, defensive end Courtney Brown, with the first overall selection. While Brown and Arrington are considered certain Pro Bowl prospects, the Redskins already have Bruce Smith, Marco Coleman and Kenard Lang at defensive end.
But Arrington, often labeled as the next Lawrence Taylor, gives Washington the dominating linebacker presence they've been missing since Ken Harvey's retirement. The Redskins, using a trio of young linebackers, ranked 30th in total defense last season.
"When you have the needs that we had, it was very fortunate for us," said director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato, in charge of a draft for the first time. "The impact guys were there in the positions we really needed them. It fell right into our laps. It was great."
Shortly after the draft, the Redskins flew Arrington and Samuels to Redskin Park for an introduction to the media. The players' entourages -- 40 people with Arrington and 14 with Samuels -- stayed behind.
Arrington, 6-foot-2 1/2 and 233 pounds, won the Dick Butkus Award for the nation's top linebacker last season. He had 72 tackles, nine sacks and 20 tackles for losses. He also made famous the "LaVar Leap," a move in which he hurdles the line of scrimmage to stop a ball-carrier or block a kick.
The Redskins will start Arrington on the weak side, making Greg Jones a reserve, but Turner said he wouldn't hesitate to use Arrington on the weak side or on the line on passing downs.
The Redskins have designated Arrington to wear No. 56, Taylor's number.
"Great expectations have already been put on me," Arrington said. "But if you want to chase greatness, No. 56 is a great place to start."
Samuels will become the instant starter at left tackle, joining last year's second-round selection, Jon Jansen, to form a formidable pair of bookends on the offensive line for perhaps the next decade. Andy Heck, last year's starting left tackle, has re-signed with the team, but he is 33 and probably will serve as the rookie's mentor.
Samuels, 6-5 and 291 pounds, did not allow a sack or quarterback pressure for Alabama last season, but he missed the Orange Bowl and the Senior Bowl with a knee injury. He was recently timed at 4.93 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- very fast for an offensive lineman.
"I've been dreaming about this all my life, and my dream has finally come true," Samuels said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to help the organization. I've developed mentally a whole lot, and now I'm ready for this level."
Both Arrington and Samuels said in recent days they wanted to play in Washington. Rarely does a player chosen this high get to go to a winning team.
"We don't have to beg 'em to play," Cerrato said.
All along, the Redskins have been adamant about avoiding protracted contract negotiations with their draft picks. Arrington and Samuels are confident that they and their management teams will avoid drawn-out talks so the rookies can enter training camp on time in July.
"It's been clear sailing up to this point," Arrington said. "There have been a couple of ripples, but the waters shouldn't get too rough."
The Redskins, satisfied with receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell, passed up a chance to take Florida State receiver Peter Warrick. Cerrato also said his phone "hadn't rung in two or three days" from any other team seeking a trade.
Snyder confirmed there weren't serious plans to trade, anyway.
"We knew all along we were going to stand pat," Snyder said.