ALBANY, N.Y. -- A rejuvenated LaVar Arrington rolled into New York Giants training camp yesterday morning, hopeful the tumult of the last two years is behind him and determined to show the Washington Redskins and the entire NFL he can still be an impact outside linebacker.
"It's a pretty weird feeling -- different but good," he told The Washington Times outside his dorm room at the University at Albany, where the Giants begin practicing today. "I'm able to be me again. That's something that hasn't existed for a little while now."
Change was a hallmark of Arrington's six seasons with the Redskins, a tenure highlighted by three Pro Bowl appearances but ultimately marred by a knee injury that limited him to four games in 2004, and the embarrassment of being benched early last year.
It is clear some of the wounds still linger for Arrington. He wasn't critical of coach Joe Gibbs or assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams, saving his shots for owner Dan Snyder. Arrington was granted his release in early March when he agreed to forfeit $4.4 million in deferred bonus payments.
"I know Snyder would love to keep people saying the things that have been said about me," Arrington said. "But he has to come up with some type of something about me in order to legitimize the dumb [stuff] that they do."
That dumb stuff, Arrington said, is alienating proven veterans and firing coaches.
"They let us all go," he said. "You can go further than just me, Ryan [Clark] and Antonio [Pierce]. Go back to Champ [Bailey]. Go back to Stephen Davis. Should I keep going? Go back to Brad Johnson. Even Marty [Schottenheimer]. We would be playing for Super Bowls had they kept Marty. And after [Steve] Spurrier left, that was it for me.
"I could tell something was different from the time the [current defensive coaching staff] got there and that different didn't include me. All of a sudden, I couldn't play. And then I got hurt. I came back and they used my injury as a reason to not play me."
Through a team spokesperson, Snyder declined to react to Arrington's comments.
As an eyewitness to the Redskins' free agent spending for many years, Arrington isn't surprised the Redskins spent money this year.
"It's the same old thing every year," he said. "They bring in somebody or do something to create some kind of buzz. I'm sold on the fact that they want to create a preseason buzz and don't care whether they win or lose so they can make more money."
Arrington said he hasn't talked to any current Redskins players recently, instead focusing on developing bonds with his new teammates.
After his release, Arrington said the Giants weren't immediately on his mind but with some prompting from Pierce, New York's starting middle linebacker, and a fair offer from the Giants, Arrington was able to stay in the NFC East. He signed a 7-year, $49 million contract with New York -- he'll earn $8.95 million in signing bonus/base salary this year.
"I was just happy to get out," he said. "I didn't have anybody on my radar other than guys that I had been close with in past years -- Marvin [Lewis in Cincinnati] and Coach [George] Edwards in Miami. I was focused on getting in contact with them. But I was so happy to get out of there, I didn't even care where I was going to end up."
The Redskins and Giants meet this year on Oct. 8 at the Meadowlands and in the Dec. 30 regular-season finale at FedEx Field.
Arrington is one of four former Redskins on the Giants training camp roster, joining Pierce, kick returner Chad Morton and backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. Morton and Pierce are happy to be reunited with Arrington.
"I'm so glad he's here -- he's going to bring great intensity to this team and it will be fun to watch him out there again," Morton said. "It was unfortunate what happened with the Redskins, but it's a shame sometimes how they do their star players. But things worked out for him -- he has a new team, some new money and we're glad to have him."
Said Pierce: "I was really surprised because he was labeled as Mr. Redskin and the team had invested a lot of money in him and two years later, he wasn't wanted. It was kind of shocking. But that's the way things go. One minute, they love you; the next minute, you're no good.
"We've got him at 100 percent and now it's up to him to respond. He's happy to be someplace else. That smile isn't fake."
Coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday that Arrington is experiencing minor tendinitis in his Achilles, but Arrington said he'll be ready to wear pads today. He joins a defense with two standout defensive ends -- Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora -- a solid middle linebacker (Pierce) and revamped secondary with new cornerback Sam Madison and new safety Will Demps.
"I don't want to be the focal point, I want to be a part of things and fit in the way they need me to," Arrington said. "With the personnel we have, there are so many good players on this defense, we want to make the whole unit the focal point."
The Giants are banking on Arrington, 28, returning to the form of 2001 through 2003, when he recorded 99, 92 and 88 tackles, a combined 171/2 sacks and three Pro Bowl appearances.
"He's a bigger, stronger player than we've had at that position," Coughlin said. "He has the ability to rush the passer and more than anything, his physical attitude, which he conveys on the field [has been impressive]. He likes football, loves practicing. That's going to be good for our team."
Pierce said defensive coordinator Tim Lewis' scheme suits Arrington's strengths.
"It's an aggressive, attacking scheme that fits him well," Pierce said. "He's not a linebacker that needs to sit back in zone coverage anymore. He'll be going forward at all times. We'll have him on his toes instead of on his heels."
After a round of interviews, with Umenyiora and later kicker Jay Feely listening, Arrington chatted for more than an hour with Giants beat writers, calling it his "orientation" to the New York media.
"The year I got injured , that was the only year I was injured," he said. "Otherwise, I've always felt pretty good. That's physically. Emotionally, this is the best I've felt in a long time. I'm in the right state of mind coming here and that's something I haven't felt in quite a while. It's a new beginning. A rebirth. And I plan to make the most of it."