- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington was a marked man on his first day.

Tight end James Jenkins held Arrington on the ground during the first two defensive snaps yesterday. Linebacker Derek Smith knocked Arrington off-balance during drills with an extra nudge. Even the three bull-in-the-ring snaps against running back Chad Dukes didn't come easy.

Welcome to the NFL where rookies sing at dinner, bring breakfast to veterans and carry bags while on-field challenges are endless. Arrington may have received a $10.75 million bonus after reporting six days late on Saturday, but it won't buy respect from teammates. Holdouts have it even harder as veterans purposely give them a harder time.

"I don't know if it was coincidental that every time I blitzed there was a double-team, but I'm used to that," Arrington said. "It was interesting. I thought it was a good first day for me. I felt comfortable out there."

Arrington is behind physically and mentally. After missing one week of quarterback school in June and the opening week of training camp, the rookie is cramming extra time with the playbook and working on his conditioning. Arrington was withheld from the rookie scrimmage because coaches felt he was unprepared.

"He did fair. He's out of shape and needs a lot of work," linebackers coach Foge Fazio said. "He'll catch up. It might take a month, but he'll catch up. The mental aspect will come. Physically, where he has to react to things, is where I'm concerned."

Arrington spent two hours with special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel and Fazio learning the playbook. He'll return today during the players' day off for more skull sessions, especially working on his responsibilities during kickoff coverage. Fazio said Arrington reacted slowly because of his unfamiliarity with the system.

"You still see some explosiveness, but you don't see the strength and initial movement. There's a little hesitation," Fazio said. "He's really three or four weeks behind in meeting time. He's rusty."

Said Arrington: "Foge is dedicated to help me out. It's not out-of-control cramming. It's reasonable."

Arrington is learning to play closer to the line and read the tight end before looking into the backfield. That's why defensive coaches asked Jenkins to push Arrington harder in drills. In a five-down series, Arrington was stuffed four times at the line before dropping back in coverage on the final snap.

"He needs some work," Jenkins said. "The defensive coaches want me to work with him in practice. They say get after him a little bit so he's a little more alert."

Arrington admitted thinking Jenkins wouldn't be as good as starting tight end Stephen Alexander. He soon discovered the NFL has more depth than college teams.

"I just found out how good a blocker he was," Arrington said. "I didn't expect him to block like that. I underestimated him. He has some strong hands."

Turner wasn't disturbed by the slow start. Arrington is working with the second team, but it's not expected to last indefinitely.

"He can run as fast as a wide receiver," Turner said. "I don't think anyone would be surprised to see him explode through somebody or be aggressive. That's what he does. We just need the next month to get him to understand what he does in our defense."

Arrington capped his first day signing autographs for the large crowd that crowded the rail to meet the team's newest marquee player. It was the easiest part of a long day. It starts again tomorrow.

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