ARLINGTON, Texas — LaRon Landry hadn't played in a football game since Nov. 15.
It didn't make a bit of difference Monday night at Cowboys Stadium. Back in the saddle for the first time after an exasperating string of injuries left him a spectator for the last seven weeks of the 2010 season and the first two this season, the combative strong safety was at his destructive best much of the night, as the Redskins defense held Dallas without a touchdown in an 18-16 loss.
"It's like riding a bike," Landry said, shrugging off a question about perhaps feeling rusty in his return after such a long layoff. "I don't forget how to hit. I don't forget how to play football.
"I feel great. Except we lost."
Well, there was that. Otherwise, Landry's 2011 debut was a smashing success. The 6-0, 220-pound veteran was credited with four tackles, but he was a force from the moment he made his first hit — stopping Dallas running back Felix Jones for no gain on a blitz on the Cowboys' fourth snap of the game.
If that didn't get the Cowboys' attention, Landry's next two big plays demanded it. Late in the first quarter, he ran down receiver Kevin Ogletree near the sideline and popped the ball loose, and, after Kevin Barnes touched it while perilously close to being out of bounds, cornerback Josh Wilson recovered to set the Redskins up at the Dallas 10.
"LaRon made a hell of a play getting that ball out," Wilson said. "I saw the angle K.B. had, and I was like, 'Just don't touch the ball.' When it got that close to the sideline, rather than try to scoop and score, I thought I made a wise decision to fall on it and make sure I had possession. But all the credit really goes to LaRon for getting the ball out."
On Dallas' next possession, Landry made a lasting impression on receiver Laurent Robinson, who made the mistake of reaching for a high pass on the right sideline. Showing no effects of the Achilles' tendon injury that ended last season or the hamstring strain that sidelined him this year, Landry raced in and blasted Robinson full force as the ball arrived.
"When you have No. 30 back there, you know he's going to take somebody's head off," Wilson said. "You saw it early in the game. They've got to watch out for him. And that gives me the confidence to play more aggressive because I know I've got a guy behind me who's going to take their lights out."