LA's Time?

There are 35 million reasons why LaVar Arrington is expected to dominate. Each reason will have a dollar attached to it over the next seven seasons, giving dollar-cost-averaging a practical application in the world of the NFL.

Of course, this is an investment the Giants expect to grow, money in the bank, so to speak. And like any good investment the way to turn a profit is by maintaining patience and confidence in one's instinct to make the correct decisions in the market – stock or free agent.

In the minds of Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Tim Lewis the money Arrington is making has nothing to do with how they've been using him – or plan to use him – in the immediate future.

And when asked about how he was used in the first two games of the season Arrington had a ready reply.

"You have to watch the film, I won't tell you the details," Arrington said after making four tackles against the Colts in his Giants debut Sept. 10. "You have to ask the coaches. We're directed to not get into the details."

Arrington, the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, was signed to add another element of aggressiveness to the defense. Instead, he spent the first two weeks of the season, following six long weeks of camp, getting acclimated to be in a supporting role as opposed to the being the focal point.

It's safe to say things no longer revolve around him. He's knows he's just as apt to be asked to drop in coverage as he would be to pressure the passer.

That is why Arrington did not appreciate a TGI statement that he was "quiet as a church mouse" in the opener against the Colts. He made only four tackles despite being on the field for 65 snaps. Game tapes revealed that he was allowed to rush Peyton Manning only 10 times, which created two quarterback pressures – but no sacks.

"It just so happens I didn't make any huge plays, but I was not as quiet as a church mouse," Arrington said.

Arrington followed that with two tackles in Philadelphia, a performance he hoped to improve upon last week in Seattle.

Before he's able to stage the shows he was accustomed to in Washington he'll need to wait for his knee, which allows him to practice only occasionally, to be totally restored, and his coaches to let him do what he's being paid to do.

"Over the years, I've seen opportunities and tried to seize them to make a big play," Arrington said. "And people tried to put my head on a serving platter, kind of attacking me for going out and making a play. And you're labeled whatever you're labeled. Then, you stay within the scheme and it's like, 'Well, you're not doing anything.' It's a no-win situation, honestly."

The Giants pass rush had been mostly invisible prior to the Seattle game. Their only two sacks were collected by Fred Robbins and Osi Umenyiora, their Pro Bowl end, who stated after the Colts game that he would not be shut out in Philadelphia – and he wasn't.

Arrington's role has been mostly limited to dropping into coverage rather than blitzing off the edge.

"You'll be like, 'Well, he didn't do this, he didn't do that,' but he was doing his job," Umenyiora said. "He was doing exactly what he was told to do … And I know he was doing it or else we would have heard about it in the meeting room. And we didn't."

In fact, after the comeback win over the Eagles, Coughlin disagreed with the contention made by middle linebacker Antonio Pierce that the defense appeared undisciplined.

"No, [the defense] is not freelancing. It's really not doing their jobs," Coughlin said. "If you look at one play you'll have someone out of position, someone not involved in the coverage the way they're supposed to be. Or the rush is not taking place exactly where it's supposed to be. So it might be one phase of the defense is not in the position that you're supposed to be in. What he's saying … is knowing what to do, when to do it, having the ability to repeat it over and over and then doing it well. From time to time it's not being done as well as it can be done."

Arrington did admit some complicity in a few plays that didn't turn out well, particularly against the Colts that involved a missed tackle and a bad angle on containment.

"I'm working my tail off to make sure I can do exactly what this defense is asking me to do," Arrington said. "And that'll be enough because we have a lot of playmakers on this team. If a big play comes my way, I'm going to make sure I don't let it get by me. That's my mentality.

"I was playing within the scheme of the defensive framework and it just so happens I didn't make any huge plays."

Said Coughlin: "We just have to call upon these people that have the ability to get themselves in position to pressure the quarterback. And it's just a matter of continuing to work on it … Anytime we bring anybody, I want to see more of it. Not just any one individual [Arrington]."

It didn't take Arrington long to recognize he stood squarely in the crosshairs around here. You don't come to New York with a Pro Bowl résumé, tarnished reputation and troublesome knee without understanding your actions will be favored topics of discussion.

To Arrington's credit, he's handled the scrutiny with humor and aplomb, handling repetitive questions like he might an inexperienced blocking back.

"He's a regular guy, stand-up guy, speaks his mind," linebackers coach Bill Sheridan said. "He listens, wants to be coached and actually is great to be around. He's got a good personality, is very lively and funny and has no problem speaking up. He's got a great disposition to be around."

But now the expectation is that he'll be able to reclaim the form that made him so attractive to the Giants.

"Now, the season is starting and everyone will see – one way or the other – what the bottom line is," Arrington said. "We're playing games now and there's nothing left to wonder about. You're not going to see me come out after three plays anymore [as he did in the preseason].

"We have some freakish-looking young guys on this team who can play. It makes me want to get out there. I have to get my game face on. It's put up or shut up time and I'm sure everyone is interested in seeing what I'm going to put up."

Arrington expects the coddling he experienced during training camp to pay off in performance.

Aware that his surgically repaired knee – "arthroscopic surgery, guys, arthroscopic," Arrington often reminds – has frequently swelled from overuse, the Giants limited his practice and game time this summer.

Arrington never worked more than once a day, missing nearly a complete week of practice in mid-August. And he didn't play in the final exhibition game against the Patriots.

"I'm sure they have a plan for me … You practice to get better, but at the same time you need to find a balance so you don't overwork before you get to the game. But I think there's very little to worry about. I feel like I'm ready to go. I feel good."

What's certain is that Arrington's spirit has been energized after his acrimonious final season in Washington when injury and conflict with the coaching staff led to a temporary benching.

"I like that very much, when he's practicing and playing," Giants coach Coughlin said.

He has adopted a new number (55) and persona (Mr. Nickels) but seems intent on proving that the old Arrington, the one capable of dominating games, has not been lost irretrievably.

"For the first time in my career – and I've said this many times – I have such great confidence in the defense," Arrington said. "When you have that confidence it gives you a whole lot of hope and desire to do what you do best."

If only the Giants would allow it.

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