The Inside Slant

Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington has decided it's time for him to be a leader, which is a role he says he likes. He also is starting to like his role on defense--or at least is getting comfortable with it.

His improved play and desire to be a better leader stemmed from the Redskins bye week in September, when Arrington had a chance to think a little. It's paid off as Arrington has six sacks in his last six games and eight overall.

''It's to the point where I'm a leader. I'm a go-to guy. I get the guys pumped up and they come to me sometime. The coaches put me in a position to make more calls, to be a vocal leader at times. I like to look at myself as an even-keel guy, trying not to be someone who cries wolf all the time, always hollering and screaming at my teammates because of my passion.

''The funny thing is earlier this year people mistook my passion and will to win for having disagreements and complaints with the coaches. Me and Marvin understand each other better at this point. Everyone should know what to do right now and it's starting to show. Leaders emerge and when the going gets tough and you need a spark, a leader will step up.

''I feel it's my defense. Why not? I'll step up on that. I love to have that title and I'll shoulder the pressure. I don't need anyone to acknowledge it and I don't have to acknowledge that I might have taken the lead role. As long as my teammates are OK with me and view me in a certain way, then I'm OK with that.

''Early on I didn't take too much of an active role. I'm one of the young guys and I was trying to be as respectful as possible. It just sort of happened. I took a good look at myself the week I went home and said to myself that I have to be more involved, more energetic. I wasn't energized early on. I had the passion, but the energy was missing. Energy and passion is what I bring to the game and a lot of guys feed off that. That's where my leadership is.

''Jessie [Armstead] is a leader. His presence is always felt. He teaches you so many little things to make you a better player. He always knows what to do and makes few mistakes.

''As for the sacks, I'm getting more comfortable with being at end, but I'm still handicapped because of my wrist. I can't use my hands the way I want to. I've just gotta push through it and it's something I have to deal with. It'll take more time than this season to heal up. I've gotta accept that so I'm using my left hand more. I've banged it up a little bit, but I have no excuses. I'm still having fun out there and making plays.

''Last week was by far my best tackling game. My father told me I needed to be more of a tackler than a hitter because I'm a grappler. I'll grab you and lock you up when I hit you. I haven't been able to do that. So I'm more of a tackler these days.

''I got my sack as an end and that was pretty cool. It was just speed. I don't think he was expecting it, maybe he didn't think I was as fast as I am. I just dipped on him and he went to punch. Coach Collins told me all week that if I can dip on him and rip, then I can beat him. I did it and it worked.

''It just takes time to learn something new, but I'm figuring it out.''

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