Checkmate

The dorm room of LaVar Arrington, Brandon Short and Jay Feely has become known as the chess house. Yes, of all things to occupy the free time of two hulking linebackers and an NFL kicker during training camp, it's a thinking man's board game – chess.

"It's a good way of getting to know one another," Arrington said. "Brandon and Jay are both very competitive and they can play pretty well too. It's a way for us to loosen up and have fun."

Arrington and Short have been battling in chess since their days of playing together at Penn State in the late-‘90s. The one-sided rivalry continues.

"That's why we all ended up rooming together," Short said. "Throughout our entire college career at Penn State LaVar had never beaten me. But shortly after he signed he got me for the first time. He hasn't beaten me since."

There's no doubt that Short is the grandmaster of this bunch, but both Feely and Arrington believe it's only a matter of time until there's a new king.

"I've never played before this," Feely said. "By the end of camp I'm going to be beating both of them."

"I've really been focused in on learning my plays, but I'm going to catch up on them once I get a hold of all the plays," Arrington added. "I started 1-2 so that's not all that bad. By the end of camp I'll be on top, I imagine so."

Despite being on the losing end more often than not, Feely knows he got into Short's head with an early-camp victory.

"I beat him the first time and he couldn't even go to sleep," Feely laughed. "That kept him up all night."

"There wasn't any rest for me that night," Short admitted. "But I've beaten him so many times since that I don't even remember."

Feely, who used to play scrabble during his training camp days with Atlanta, said it doesn't take much to stoke his competitive fire.

"We'll play every night, after meetings and everything's over," Feely said. "Athletes just love to compete at anything. It drives me crazy that Brandon's beating me right now."

Shaun O'Hara has also gotten the itch to play.

"I enjoy it, it's a thinking man's game," he said. "Like anything in life, you want to stay one step ahead.

"I'll just dub myself an up-and-coming star. I'm a couple stages behind those guys."

The only person able to stop Short's string of success has been team chaplain George McGovern, who drops by to play on occasion.

"Right now George has my number," Short said.

Short enjoys breaking the mold and showing outsiders that three football players can be every bit as good at chess as the next guy.

"A lot of times athletes are stereotyped as not too cerebral, but LaVar and me are Penn State-educated and Jay went to that other school (Michigan) so he's not an idiot either," he said.

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