- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

When he was starting last preseason for an injured LaVar Arrington, Lemar Marshall thought his standing was temporary.

Marshall knew Arrington had proved to be durable during his NFL career and when the Washington Redskins started the regular season, No.56 would be back at his outside linebacker position.

And Arrington was. For two weeks.

“The first game, he was ready,” Marshall recalled. “The second game, he was questionable but played. The third game, I was in there.”

A year later, Marshall is still a starter, armed with a new contract, a new position and new responsibilities.

Impressed with the way he filled in for Arrington in 13 starts last year, the Redskins coaches moved Marshall to middle linebacker during the offseason to replace Antonio Pierce, who signed as a free agent with the New York Giants.

Marshall, 28, is getting the first shot at middle linebacker, whose job includes running the huddle, directing the presnap traffic and anchoring the middle of the field.

“He stepped in last year and really saved us,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “He had a heckuva season, and to his credit he got a good contract [three years, $2 million] out of it. He’s an example of a guy blossoming and becoming a key part of what we’re doing. Now we’re counting on him at middle backer.”

Before training camp, Marshall’s main competition for the starting job — Mike Barrow — was released. Also working at the position are Warrick Holdman, Clifton Smith and Robert McCune.

If Arrington is slow to return, it’s possible Marshall could be moved back outside by necessity. For now, he’s adjusting to his new leadership role.

“I’m used to making the calls,” he said. “It’s one of those things I’ve always tried to familiarize myself with.”

A quick study under assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Dale Lindsey, Marshall was far from an instant NFL standout.

Undrafted out of Michigan State, Marshall was signed and released by Tampa Bay (1999), Philadelphia (2000) and Denver (2001) before joining the Redskins late in the 2001 season.

In 2002-03, he played primarily on special teams in 28 games (no starts), forging a close friendship with Pierce.

Entering last season, Marshall and Pierce figured their roles would be similar, what with Arrington playing outside and the newly acquired Barrow manning the middle. But Barrow never played a snap because of a knee injury, opening the door for Pierce to start every game. Arrington’s knee injury forced his exit after Week2, creating a spot for Marshall.

Marshall finished sixth on the Redskins’ third-ranked defense with 82 tackles and had seven or more tackles in seven games.

When Pierce went to the Giants, Williams and Lindsey opted for the in-house replacement.

“Lemar knows exactly how we want things done, and [Holdman] is still getting adapted to what we do and how we do it,” Williams said.

After observing Pierce for a season, Marshall said the best thing he learned was how to adjust on the fly.

“You have to be ready for the adversity and the challenges that will come up, and you have to be quick on your feet,” he said. “I know I’ll be more technique-oriented this year and make sure I have all the little details covered.”

Marshall is also prepared to be more vocal on and off the field.

“If something needs to be said, you want it from anybody who feels they’ve got something to say,” he said. “It has to come from somebody who wants to speak the truth. The [middle] backer means being the quarterback out there, and it means being vocal.”

Notes — Receiver Taylor Jacobs will be sidelined at least a week with a sprained big left toe suffered during Saturday’s scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens. Jacobs missed a day of practice last week because of heat-related symptoms. …

This is the final week practices will be open to the public. Open workouts are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30p.m. The Redskins open the preseason Saturday at Carolina (8p.m.). …

Joe Gibbs Racing recorded its second NASCAR victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Tony Stewart won the Allstate 400 yesterday. “It has been a dream for Tony Stewart his whole life to win at that racetrack,” Gibbs said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

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