LaVar Arrington is looking at his opportunity in New York as a new beginning – in every sense of the word. During his six seasons with the Redskins, he was blamed for everything under the sun, labeled as selfish and basically ushered out the door. It's no secret that members of the Redskins front office called around the league bashing Arrington to prospective buyers. But those that know Arrington say that type of talk is absurd.
When asked what's one thing most people don't know about Arrington, former Penn State and current Giants teammate Kareem McKenzie laughed before answering, "He's actually a nice guy."
"He's a great overall player with a demanding work ethic," McKenzie continued. "What you see is what you get. He is the exact individual that he portrays himself to be."
Brandon Short is another former college teammate that knows the real Arrington.
"How loyal LA is as a teammate, a friend and a human being," Short explained. "People think LA is a loose canon, like some crazy wild man. He's a family man to the core. He's married and settled down. In college, people used to think I was him and he was me by how we actually acted.
"He's a good friend and family man. He'd really take a bullet for somebody that he feels would do the same for him. He definitely gets a bad rap."
When asked about his tumultuous times with the Redskins, Arrington opted to take the high road.
"I think it is a dead issue," he said. "I think that that issue has been revisited, in ways, more often than it should be. I think that I am so excited about being a Giant now and being in this city and being able to bring what I am going to bring to this organization and to this community. So that is what I am focused on. It is such a dead issue."
On the field, he was mostly criticized for freelancing and not following the gameplan. A DC source told TGI that, in actuality, it was Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that misused Arrington, tried to make an example out of him and routinely failed to put him in position to succeed.
"I just tried to explain to everybody the situation," said Antonio Pierce, a close friend of Arrington's that was instrumental in him signing with Big Blue. "Sometimes guys come across the wrong way and are perceived the wrong way. I just wanted to put things in perspective. I just wanted him to get a fair shot. He's a people person. He's going to be great in the locker room, a good presence. The guy is full of life, and he's great to talk to about football and stuff outside of football.
"You're going to see a new and improved LaVar Arrington. He doesn't want to come in and have the same stuff happen that happened in Washington."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, hardly one to look the other way if he sees something he doesn't like, has enjoyed Arrington's presence since he signed.
"I think he has been a really good, enthusiastic, energetic, shot in the arm for the whole team, to be honest with you," he said. "He is a guy who has great enthusiasm. He enjoys what he is doing. He shares with others his enjoyment. He can be verbal, he can be challenging down there. He has come in – he has run well, he has done a good job in the strength program. I think, as I said, that you definitely notice that he is in the building. He has energized some of the guys in the offseason; it has become very competitive and I look forward to that transcending over to the field."
Pierce and Short are aware of the criticisms of Arrington and insist those reports have no credibility.
"I'm a professional football player and I play linebacker in this league, too," Short said. "I understand a lot of the things they were talking about with LaVar were just inaccurate. Any time an athlete like that comes in, there's going to be a lot of attention. They magnify the good and they magnify the bad. Nobody is going to be in the right position all the time on the football field. But what matters is you make plays. And the guy makes plays."
"He's going to give you big-play ability," Pierce said. "That's what he is. He's like a basketball player that looks for the last shot of the game. He's looking for that knockout hit. You're going to hit and miss sometimes. That's the nature of the game. But now, being an older player, a wiser player, I think you'll see a more consistent LaVar Arrington. He'll play within the system. I'm not saying he didn't play within the system elsewhere. But he's not the focal point of this defense."
With less pressure, Pierce said to expect even more production from Arrington.
"We don't need him to go get 10 sacks," he said. "We've got two guys that can do that. If he comes in and gives us another 10 sacks, you know what that's going to mean for us. He understands that he doesn't have to come here and put the whole load on his back."
Having spent six years in the league, Arrington knows he's viewed as a freelancer. But he said nothing could be further from the truth.
"It is not surprising," he said. "This is the NFL. Nobody makes it in the NFL just freelancing. People have always had their opinions one way or the other. I just try and play past it. I try not to give it too much attention. I don't know what freelancing means. I try my best to fit into whatever it is that I am being taught. I am a very coachable individual. I think I am a pleasant individual to be around."
Arrington genuinely doesn't know from where all the negative chatter emanated.
"Where all of those things got started, I have no idea," he said. "Maybe it is the style of play where, even if I am on one side of the field, if I have an opportunity (I am going to try to make the play on the other side). At times it worked, at times it doesn't. So maybe that is where it came from. I don't know. But I am out there giving 100 percent. My motor is running and I am trying to help the team win. I am trying to do the best that I can to create a winning effort."
For Arrington, every day with the Giants puts more and more space between him and the Redskins.
"It's football here," he said. "It's not about politics or anything like that. I feel like my swagger's coming back and that's because I'm not there anymore."
While Arrington claimed that his focus never waned, he did admit that the DC years have helped him grow up some.
"I have been focused my whole career," he said. "If that is what the general perception is, then that's cool. But I will say I matured a whole lot more than what I have been in the past, just from the standpoint of really taking time to pay attention to the detail of every single thing I am doing. Which I think will, in the end, prove to make me a better player."
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