The marriage between the Washington Redskins and their most popular player of the 21st century ended with a brief press release sent out Sunday night just before midnight.
The first day of the divorce was amicable, as if the fact that three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington is really an ex-Redskin hadn't been truly absorbed despite a split more than a year in the making.
"I hate that things ended this way, but some things don't always go the way you want them to," Arrington said in a telephone interview. "I really enjoyed the opportunity to be in Washington. I'm still so much a part of the community even though I'm not going to be a Redskin. That will not change in my heart.
"I don't have any hard feelings towards the Redskins. I hope they feel the same way about me."
Coach Joe Gibbs was equally conciliatory after two tumultuous seasons in which Arrington, largely because of injuries, started just 12 of 34 games. The low point came in October, when Arrington was not even placed on the active roster for the Redskins' loss to the Denver Broncos. Throughout the last two seasons, Arrington feuded with the defensive staff, particularly linebackers coach Dale Lindsey.
"I certainly wish that the last two years had been smoother," Gibbs said. "When I came here, LaVar had been a big part of the Redskin program, and there had been a huge commitment to him. [But then] it seemed like nothing went right. ... We wish there had been no injuries and he could've played more and played back to the standard where I know he wanted to be. I know he was totally frustrated.
"I'm hoping that [his departure is] best for the Redskins. I hope it will be best for LaVar. We wish him the absolute best."
Gibbs went to Arrington's house outside of Annapolis in late February to tell him in person about the Redskins' salary cap difficulties.
Left unchanged, Arrington's contract would have cost the Redskins about $12.1 million if he was on the team and about $12 million if he wasn't thanks to the failure of the NFL and its players union to reach accord on an extension of the collective bargaining agreement.
The $6.5 million roster bonus due Arrington on July 15 was particularly unwieldy.
The Redskins gave Arrington two choices. The first, if there was no CBA, guaranteed that Arrington would be a Redskin this year and would void his contract after next year in exchange for shifting his 2006 dollars into 2007.
The second option allowed Arrington to become a free agent immediately by giving up the portion of the $5.7 million in deferred signing bonus he was due for 2007 and 2008. That, in turn, would give the Redskins $4.5 million in cap relief. If the CBA had been extended, Arrington figured to be a post-June 1 cap casualty because of that roster bonus.
"The economics involved with the restructuring, I felt I had to stand on principle," Arrington said. "We weren't [seeing] eye-to-eye. I wanted to be here, but, ultimately, I had to do what was best for me and my family. But after everything that has happened, I still wanted to help the Redskins [financially] to help my teammates."
Arrington told The Washington Times in late December he wasn't sure he wanted to keep playing, but he said yesterday he has been re-energized.
Arrington, at 27, still could prove a valuable commodity in a free agent market in which the only other top-shelf outside linebackers are Julian Peterson and Will Witherspoon.
Arrington's favorite coach, Marty Schottenheimer, and position coach, Greg Manusky, who worked with him 2001 in Washington, are in San Diego, as is his protege, Shawne Merriman. Arrington's former defensive coordinators, Marvin Lewis and George Edwards, are in Cincinnati and Miami, respectively. Arrington said he wants to remain in the NFC East -- Philadelphia and the New York Giants certainly could use him -- and of course, he would love to return home to Pittsburgh.
"LaVar played well at the end of the season," an AFC scout said. "He'll be somebody that a lot of people will be interested in. He's a quality player. He's still young, is proven and has a lot of good years left in him. He won't have any trouble finding employment."
Added an NFL general manager: "It's supply and demand. It depends on how many people want to spend money at that position. LaVar's still a good player, but he'll have to get a physical. He's a bit of a freelancer, but he still has that knack for making plays. Without that interception against Tampa Bay [in the first round of the 2005 playoffs], the Redskins don't win that game."
Arrington is working to allay the concerns about his oft-injured legs by working out with a personal trainer. He said he has lost 10 pounds and is down to his college weight of 249.
"I'm starting over," Arrington said. "I've never been in this position, so I'm just going to see what happens. I don't know where I'll be next year, but I do want to play football. This could be my last hurrah."
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