The Inside Slant

Here's the scene: a Monday night game, crowd filing in, emotions building with each passing tick of the clock, and a game against the team to beat in your division. How do you handle that?

For linebacker LaVar Arrington, that scene would have resulted in his getting out of breath on the game's first play. Why? Because he didn't know how to relax before the game, a crucial element for a strong start. Or at least to not becoming drained on the first series.

''Guys get overexcited and they start hyperventilating the first series or two,'' Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. ''That causes them to be dead tired. LaVar does that a lot. The first three or four plays of the game I'll call the huddle up and he's having trouble breathing. It's not because he's out of shape. You just expand so much energy when you go into that hyper space.''

But Arrington says he's learning, which is why he now listens to music before the game (Gladiator, or anything from Tupac). He'll also make small talk with the other linebackers.

''It's a crucial time for me before the game because I have to control my emotions or I'll wear myself out,'' Arrington said. ''I just try and stay as loose and as calm as I possibly can. I think I'm pretty good at it now. Before I'd get too tired.'' Not that he's always successful.

''LaVar [Arrington] just jumps around to get excited,'' Redskins tackle Jon Jansen said. ''Just like you see on the field.''

Can you blame him? Arrington plays a position that feeds off emotion and no Redskin is as emotional on the field as he is. Picture him trying to stay loose before a game in the locker room. It's not easy. And it's impossible once he steps out of the locker room and walks the 20 or 30 feet to the tunnel, waiting to run onto the field.

''I'm letting it go by then,'' Arrington said. ''It's game time. That's what I'm thinking. It's an adrenaline rush, a crazy rush. I don't know how else to describe it. You have to feel it to understand it.''

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