The establishment’s color scheme is burgundy and gold.
Customers come to The Sideline because LaVar Arrington, once the most visible player on the Redskins, owns it. They don’t come because of LaVar Arrington, the bright, argumentative sociology major and father of four young children.
Arrington is making a mark off the field. He enjoys operating The Sideline. He is a part-owner of a soon-to-open dessert bistro in the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta and another eatery near the Penn State campus. He is a part-owner of streetcred.com and a still-forming management company for athletes and entertainers with rapper T.I.
But those ventures surely won’t provide memories as indelible as the ones he made on the football field.
“I have to figure out something where I can have fun while I’m competing,” Arrington says. “With football, I had lost that. I’ll see a picture of when I played and I’ll be like, ‘God, that was me.’ I had my impact on the game. I just didn’t have longevity. But when I was doing it, I don’t think there were too many people who did it the way I did it.
“I can recall so many games. My rookie year, we beat Baltimore. They won the Super Bowl, but we didn’t just win, we beat them boys up, Stephen Davis stiff-arming Rod Woodson for the go-ahead touchdown. When we beat Dallas in Darrell Green’s last game. I probably helped Bruce [Smith] get his last five sacks on his way to the record.”
Green was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Smith and Woodson likely will be this year. Davis helped lead the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Arrington left many wanting more and wondering how good he could have been.
“LaVar was a great athlete, but sometimes injuries just have a way of knocking you down,” says former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher, who first saw Arrington play in high school. “When he was at Penn State, I thought he would be the perfect linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Unfortunately, it never unfolded that way. But LaVar had a very good career. He was one of the elite linebackers.”
Arrington would’ve loved to play for Cowher, a former linebacker who coached the Steelers from 1992 to 2006. Instead, he was drafted second overall in 2000 by the Redskins, for whom he played under five coaches and five defensive coordinators during his first five seasons.
“I believe I would’ve rivaled Lawrence Taylor if I had gone to Pittsburgh,” Arrington says. “If I had played in a defensive system like Pittsburgh’s, they wouldn’t have been able to stop me. Think about how [coordinator] Marvin Lewis used me in a hybrid 3-4 where I was playing end. I led all linebackers with 11.5 sacks. And then he was gone [to Cincinnati], and my production was gone.”
Arrington’s final two seasons in Washington were filled with injuries, humiliation and tension.
A dispute with owner Dan Snyder over a December 2003 contract extension intended to help the Redskins with the salary cap boiled over into a feud with new defensive boss Gregg Williams and linebackers coach Dale Lindsey in 2004.
At times, Arrington didn’t play even in the 2005 season even though he was healthy and replacement Warrick Holdman was a cipher.
“If Gregg hadn’t been corrupted by the front office agenda, I probably would’ve had a hell of a year with him, but there were too many hidden agendas for me to be successful in that regime,” says Arrington, who later patched things up with Williams and said he no longer has hard feelings toward Lindsey either.