Arrington leads Redskins in tackles in return to field

Updated: October 23, 2005, 9:46 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Well, well, well, check out who led the Washington Redskins in tackles Sunday: LaVar Arrington.

LaVar Arrington
AP Photo/Evan VucciThe Redskins did their best to lower LaVar Arrington's value.
That's right, the same LaVar Arrington who didn't play a single down on defense in the preceding two games. The same LaVar Arrington who's been involved in an off-field soap opera of "he said, he said" with head coach Joe Gibbs and assistant Gregg Williams, involving why the linebacker hasn't been playing and when he might again.

Playing mostly in long-yardage situations in the first half, but on the field much more in the second, Arrington was credited with seven tackles and two assists in Washington's 52-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

"I was just happy to be out there. I don't care what package, I don't care how they use me," Arrington said. "The interaction between me and the coaches has gotten a little better. I felt there was a different type of vibe between us, which was kind of good. It took some tension out of the air."

He played often as a rushing end and also dropped into coverage. Coincidence or not, the 49ers often ran plays away from Arrington, sometimes rolling out quarterback Alex Smith.

"He responded. He looked like he made plays," Gibbs said. "That was good for us and it was good for him."

In the first quarter, Arrington tracked Smith down from behind near the sideline. Linebacker Chris Clemons greeted Arrington with a leaping hug, as though to say, "Glad to have you back!"

Arrington stopped running back Kevan Barlow for a 4-yard loss on the final play of the first half and pulled down wideout Rasheed Marshall for a 7-yard loss on a reverse. He collected high-fives and back slaps from teammates and was his usually animated self, waving to the crowd to ask for louder cheering and bouncing around before plays.

"I felt a whole lot of stuff. I'm overwhelmed in this experience," Arrington said. "I'm happy the coaching staff gave me the opportunity to go out there and help. I just want to be a part, and it feels good."

He was relegated to spot duty in Washington's first three games, then didn't enter on defense at all the next two. The team offered all sorts of partial explanations, from Arrington's slow recovery from knee surgery to problems in practice to his hit-or-miss playing style.

Arrington said he wasn't told exactly why he wasn't playing; Gibbs said he's spoken to Arrington "more than any other player I've ever coached in 30 years, probably three times more."

This week, Williams gave the strongest indication to date that Arrington was close to getting back on the field, saying: "We really think he's taken some strides physically, not only from the schematic standpoint, but physically. It looks like his legs are back."

Whatever was keeping Arrington out, his teammates were pleased to see him back.

"I've been encouraging LaVar the whole time because I know what he can do. He had an outstanding game and I'm proud of him," offensive lineman Chris Samuels said. "It's just a boost for all of us. It's another force other teams have to focus on."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press