LaVar Arrington is back. And he’s a changed man.
Arrington showed in Thursday’s preseason finale at Baltimore that he can still play the way he did in the past for the Washington Redskins. But the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker said he is not the same person he was before suffering the first major injury of his career last September.
“In years past, I would have been jacked up for this first game, so jacked up to get on the field for the Pittsburgh [preseason] game or so jacked up to get back on the practice field and know that I can move well enough to make plays,” said Arrington, who figures to play extensively in a regular-season game for the first time in 51 weeks in Sunday’s opener against Chicago. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Arrington, heading into his sixth season at 27, cares about football as much as ever. But all the lonely hours of rehabilitating from two knee surgeries and a bad bone bruise between the operations changed him, as did his marriage this offseason and the impending arrival of his first child in January.
“I’ve slowed everything down,” Arrington said. “I slowed how I view things. I slowed how I react to things. Not just in football, but in life. I used to create something in my mind and make myself go 100 miles an hour towards whatever that was.”
As Arrington talked about slowing down, rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers — Washington’s most recent top draft pick — came running through the Redskin Park lobby. Arrington smiled at the reminder of how he used to be.
“Carlos has some swagger,” Arrington said. “He’s going to do some good things. I’ve still got some of my swagger, but times have changed. I know what I have to do and I understand that for me to be able to do it as proficiently as I possibly can, I can’t go out there and just be all emotional. I’m growing up. I’m married. There’s a baby on the way. That all plays a part.”
Arrington would even be at peace with being a spare part behind fill-in Warrick Holdman if that’s what the coaches want.
“Playing on Sunday will be an accomplishment because it has been such a long road,” said Arrington, who hasn’t been a healthy backup since the third game of his rookie year. “However much I play, however they use me, whatever I do, I’m just going to be happy that I’m out there. I’m not concerned about starting. I just want to be a part of it. I’m grateful to even have an opportunity again to get out there with those guys.”
Arrington renewed his recovery when he returned to practice Aug. 15, and it began in earnest Aug. 26 in the preseason game against the Steelers at FedEx Field.
“I’m getting faster,” Arrington said. “It felt good out there in Baltimore [he played about half the game Thursday]. The thing I was most impressed with was that I slowed my heart rate down on the field. I was very methodical. I was directing traffic out there, letting people know what we were going to do.”
Going from amped-up star to backup traffic cop represents quite a change, but the new Arrington is steadfastly philosophical.
“I don’t put too much into some of the things that I used to,” he said. “I’m just going to take the future as it comes.”
Notes — Sean Taylor’s attorney, Edward Carhart, filed a motion for a continuance of the Redskins safety’s trial. If approved by Judge Mary Barzee at a hearing tomorrow in Miami, Taylor won’t face trial on the felony assault charge until the offseason. The Redskins’ final regular-season game is Jan. 1. …