- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

The Washington Redskins' injury report grew even more optimistic yesterday. Linebacker LaVar Arrington, running back Stephen Davis and wide receiver Michael Westbrook all are expected to play tomorrow against the New York Giants, each perhaps without limitations.

Arrington's likely return to the starting lineup is the most surprising, considering he suffered a Grade II MCL sprain only two weeks ago. He participated in virtually all of practice yesterday after taking part in most drills Thursday, and he should give a big emotional boost to a defense that lost linebacker Shawn Barber to a torn ACL last week.

"He brings the big playmaking ability to what we're trying to do," coach Marty Schottenheimer said, calling Arrington's status "highly probable" and saying Arrington should play "quite a bit."

Washington's defensive lineup will remain as expected, with Arrington at his natural strongside spot, Kevin Mitchell in the middle and undrafted rookie Antonio Pierce on the weak side. Robert Jones will substitute for Arrington. Pierce made his first career start in place of Arrington last week, but Schottenheimer believes the precocious 22-year-old will adjust easily to Barber's spot.

"Mentally, he's capable of [making the switch]," Schottenheimer said. "He's going to have his busts. All young players do. But he spends obviously a lot of time at it, because you can't be as well versed as he is without having spent a lot of time. There's some differences [between the positions] but he's worked at both throughout the preseason and training camp."

Davis' tweaked ankle was not considered serious, but the Redskins are fortunate he won't be limited against the Giants. Davis is averaging a solid 4.5 yards on just 40 carries because of how often the Redskins have faced large deficits. He practiced yesterday for the first time this week.

Westbrook's sore hip also was viewed as a mild setback but Schottenheimer hinted Thursday that it might saddle the starting wideout with a limited role. Now it appears Westrook will start and take his full complement of snaps, though that number might be reduced because Schottenheimer wants to get Kevin Lockett more work. Westbrook, like Davis, practiced yesterday for the first time this week.

Shade not the problem

Strong safety Sam Shade has appeared responsible for a number of receptions this season, particularly in the past two games. But the defense's collective mistakes in zone schemes often are to blame, and Schottenheimer said he has given no thought to using veteran Keith Lyle in place of Shade.

"A year ago, Sam was the most productive player on this defense," Schottenheimer said, referring to Shade's team-high 143 tackles. "He is right now in the process of trying to get a lot of this stuff figured out. There's a lot of volume for a defensive safety."

Shade, for his part, sees room to improve. He specifically is looking to force his first turnover of the season.

"I don't feel like I've made the plays I want to make," the seventh-year veteran said. "Yeah, I know what I'm doing as far as the coverage. I feel like I'm one of the leaders out there. I feel like I've still done a pretty good job in run support, but that's something I've always done. I just feel like now, in order to help this team, I've got to step up and make some plays."

Extra points

Redskins left guard Dave Szott gets to sleep at his Morristown, N.J., home after the game. Szott lives about 30 minutes away from Giants Stadium and grew up just a few miles away. He is expected to take more Mondays off (to go with the regular Tuesdays off) as the season progresses to help care for his son, Shane, who has cerebral palsy.

The linebackers got chastised by teammates for not buying enough lunch on their day to feed everyone. The linebackers bought enough for about 40 people, rather than 100 and got an earful from hungry players like defensive lineman Kenard Lang.

"You know what it is?" Lang said. "We've got the lightest linebackers in the league, averaging about 210 [pounds, though it's actually 240]. They want to hog all the food, eat it all for themselves. That's all right, though. They'll get theirs in the end. Trust me."

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