Ready to roam
Skins LB Arrington unleashed in 'controlled madness'
CARLISLE, Pa. -- After a devastating senior season at Penn State in 1999 -- 20 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two blocked kicks -- Redskins strongside linebacker LaVar Arrington didn't make the big-play impact that prompted Washington to select him No. 2 overall in 2000.
He started 11 games, posting 73 tackles (fifth on the team) and four sacks. But this year, the Redskins plan to allow him more freedom to chase the quarterback and find the ball. He sat down with Sports Illustrated's Don Banks on Friday at training camp to discuss his new assignment and Washington's prospects in 2001:
Don Banks: When the Redskins say their defensive scheme is going to feature you being allowed to roam and rush the quarterback more than you did last year, does that mean we'll see the LaVar Arrington of Penn State in 1999?
LaVar Arrington: I feel really comfortable in this scheme. It's almost identical to the way I was used at Penn State. Just a little more wrinkles that have been added. So it's real exciting to be put in a situation where you can do the same things that got you here in the first place.
Banks: Describe specifically what you'll be doing more of this year?
Arrington: You want to have someone like me running around. You want to move me in different positions, where even if it's controlled madness it's still hard to account for me all over the field. They're going to move me around and find spots where I can do the most damage.
Banks: Last year at times you were playing as if you had to think before reacting. Is this defense going to allow you just to react more?
Arrington: Yeah, I'll just be jetting, man. I know these defensive schemes, so it's like I'm already ready to go. It should be evident in the way people are seeing me practice. I'm ready to go.
Banks: At the risk of overstating things, did last year at times feel like you had shackles around your legs?
Arrington: I don't want to say shackles, but they just used me differently, that's all. I thought I was being brought in for a different role. For the role that I have this year. And this just feels a whole lot better. It’s what I know and it's what I naturally do.
Banks: How long did it take for this team to realize Marty Schotteheimer was in control?
Arrington: In control is such an inappropriate phrase for a bunch of grown men trying to chase the same goal. I just think his leadership is superb and unparalleled. It's just one of those things where we're having a good time out here, but at the same time he's also letting it be made known that this is what we're doing. We're going for a championship and this is how we're going to do it. He's made that clear, we're working toward that, and we're all following his lead.”
Banks: This team underachieved mightily in 2000. When you reflect on that, what happened?
Arrington: How many times do you come into a season saying a team is going to do this or a team's going to do that, and it ends up doing it? It hardly ever happens the way they predict. But granted, we weren't that far away from what we wanted to do, either.
A lot of people made it seem like we had such a bad year and this and that. We were a few points away, a handful of points away from being where we needed to be last year. And I think we'll be a better team this year than we were last year.
Banks: Does this feel like a whole new team? Are the Redskins starting over completely?
Arrington: In some ways, but there are still a lot of guys here though. That gives us a little continuity from the start, because there are a lot of guys here who know what we went through last year. There are enough starters here from last year that we know what's going on. We're close enough to bring the rest of the people who weren't here close together.
Banks: Will people recognize your game this year as the game that got you drafted No. 2 overall out of Penn State?
Arrington: Well, I'm a better player than I was at Penn State. Being around the players I've been around here and getting the coaching and instruction that I've gotten. I'm a better player. As far as physically, I'm as physically prepared as I can possibly be this year. So, we'll just have to wait and see. Some people might say I'm playing like I played at Penn State. Some people might say he looks totally different from how he played at Penn State. We'll see. I'm a stronger player, I know that.