The bigger-than-life head coaches stalked the sidelines, the passes and catches were there, the runs were there, and the tackles were there -- or at least most of them. Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington hardly played in Washington's last-minute win over the Cowboys Sept. 19 at Texas Stadium. He wasn't hurt, he wasn't in trouble off the field, and he wasn't holding out for more money. The most talented player on the Redskin defense was, basically, benched.
The reason for the curious defensive rotation in Washington's first
five games was unclear. He and the team reported his health was fine.
There were reports that he was miffed over a clause for a roster bonus
that was left out of the contract extension he signed over the
offseason, but the team insisted that the contract had nothing to do
with his playing time, or lack thereof, and pointed out that he didn't
have to sign it, and that if he had any beef, it was with his agent,
not the team. The official company line that was used to explain his
absence was that he was undisciplined in practice, a freelancing
maverick defender who didn't fit defensive coordinator Gregg Williams'
rigid defensive style. Many -- Arrington, Washington fans, media in the
city and around the country -- had a hard time swallowing that
explanation. Arrington is a physical freak, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound
specimen with the strength of a lineman, the speed of a running back
and the overall athleticism of a small forward. The man who ended Troy
Aikman's career with a clean-but-brutal hit sat idly by while the
Cowboys dominated the first 56 minutes of the teams' first meeting,
getting on the field for just a handful of plays.
While the scrutiny intensified, Arrington played the role perfectly for
the media. He smiled for cameras, spewed appropriate rhetoric in the
media by saying he'd do whatever the team needed to win, that he
respected the coaches' decisions and that he'd be ready when called
upon. He seemed almost like a Boy Scout who was being punished for good
behavior. Those who know him, however, described Arrington as a
ferocious competitor who was being torn up by watching Warrick Holdman
start in his regular spot.
Finally, the coaches gave in. After rare appearances through the team's
first five games, Arrington "showed enough discipline in practice" to
earn considerable playing time in the Redskins' demolition of the San Francisco 49ers Oct. 23. The Redskins' defense, already one of the
better units in the NFL, got better.
"He puts a whole different dimension in their defense," Dallas tight
end Dan Campbell said. "He can be anywhere in the defense, because he
can do everything. He can play the run, he can rush the passer, he can
drop into coverage. You never know where he's going to line up, or how
he's going to come at you.
"Sometimes, it seems like he doesn't even know where he's supposed to
be. That's a little dangerous, because he's such an amazing athlete he
can be out of position and still make plays."
Campbell said that Arrington's freelance style makes him among the
toughest defenders in the NFL to block.
"Because he's so fast, and so strong, you really can't assume he's
going to do a certain thing on a certain play," Campbell said. "It's
almost like you have to assume he'll be everywhere on every play."
Reports out of Washington say that the Redskins' top three cornerbacks
-- Shawn Springs, Walt Harris and Carlos Rogers -- are questionable for
Sunday's re-match. But to hear the Cowboys tell it, Arrington's return
might make the defense just as good as it was when the teams met in
"Believe me, we realize he's back," tight end Jason Witten said. "We
realize what he brings to their defense. He's a great athlete, he's a
great player and really a great asset to that defense."
Arrington's statistics -- 39 tackles in basically seven games -- are
nowhere near what's expected for a player who has made the Pro Bowl in
three of his first five seasons. But he has unseated Holdman as the
team's starter on the left side and improves the defense's size, speed
and pass rushing ability. If he can stay in his coaches' good graces,
he remains a major impact player.
CowboysHQ Top Stories
Dez Bryant's MRI + Jerry's Cowboys Q&AOn Dez Bryant's MRI + Jerry Jones' Cowboys Q&A, thanks to the team owner's notable, confusing Tuesday visit with 105.3 The Fan ...
CowboysHQYesterday at 9:29 AM
Cowboys Rooks Shine Behind Battered O-LineCowboys Rookies Shine Behind Battered O-Line; Surgery Possible For La'el Collins
CowboysHQMonday at 4:58 PM
Cowboys Ex Greg Hardy Arrested On Drug ChargeFish Kept Calling It The 'Uptown Flu' ... And Now Some Added Insight, Maybe As Cowboys Ex Greg Hardy Is Arrested On Drug Charges
CowboysHQMonday at 4:34 PM
Cowboys Top Bears: The 'Rise of the Bease'Five different Cowboys QBs can't be wrong, right? Not when they all put their trust in Cole Beasley, now the Cowboys' No. 2 wide receiver.
CowboysHQMonday at 6:22 AM
Youth Helps Cowboys Hurdle Bears, 31-17The Cowboys took care of the Bears 31-17 to finish September with a 2-1 record while dropping Chicgo to 0-3. Dallas' kids, and Dallas' health, are the big takeaways.
CowboysHQSunday at 8:58 PM