- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Darrell Green is a devoted family man, a devout Christian with a deep commitment to his community. But less than two months shy of his 42nd birthday, Green can't let go of his most famous role: cornerback for the Washington Redskins.
So Green rescinded his retirement announcement of Sept. 4 and said he will return for a 20th season in 2002. In the NFL's first 82 years, that's a feat achieved only by kickers Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson, linemen Jim Marshall and Jackie Slater, quarterback Earl Morrall (usually a backup) and George Blanda, a kicker for most of his final decade. In short, six players for whom speed, or the lack of it, wasn't much of an issue.
Green, on the other hand, plays a position at which speed is paramount and a mistake can cost his team six points. Yet Green played in his seventh Pro Bowl at 37 and was a regular at 39. And Green, now a nickel back, has retained enough of his abilities that the Redskins are 4-1 the past two years when circumstances have forced him into the starting lineup.
So how has a 5-foot-8, 175-pound self-described "itty-bitty guy" from Division I-AA Texas A&I; (now Texas A&M-Kingsville;) done what no other speed guy could?
"I always wondered how Darrell did what he did at his size, and now that I've played with him, I still don't know," Redskins rookie corner Fred Smoot marveled. "Maybe only Darrell can do it. He's still one of the fastest people on this team. I'm real fast, and he might be able to beat me."
That world-class speed earned Green four titles as the "NFL's Fastest Man" and has left teammates and opponents alike shaking their heads in wonder. During his 1983 debut, Green chased down Dallas' Hall of Fame halfback Tony Dorsett. And 15 years later, he memorably caught speedy Oakland runner Napoleon Kaufman from behind.
"When we timed the players each spring [in the 40-yard dash], everybody stopped to watch Darrell run, and there was always a kind of gasp when he came out of the blocks," said Raiders defensive backs coach Ron Lynn, Washington's defensive coordinator from 1994 to 1996.
Former defensive tackle Tim Johnson, who roomed with Green from 1990 to 1995, recalled how the Redskins couldn't wait for film sessions to start on Mondays after games in which Green had closed on and tackled a speedster like Detroit's Barry Sanders.
"We would watch the film, and it was like Darrell was sped up and everybody else was at normal speed," Johnson said. "It was like, 'Whoa! Look at that.'"
Dallas coach Dave Campo, previously the Cowboys' secondary coach, said Green's extraordinary quickness and reaction time allow him to recover if a receiver gets a jump. Redskins third-year corner Champ Bailey said Green's work ethic has been instrumental.
"Darrell always gives it his all," Bailey said. "He practices hard. He studies a lot. He takes his job seriously. The time that Darrell puts in working out, the way he manages his life has made him last this long, but it's still hard to imagine, especially being that size with the emergence of the big receivers."
His size never mattered. From Mike Quick to Jerry Rice to Randy Moss, Green never backed away from covering receivers as much as eight inches and 40 pounds bigger. Green handled the opposing top receiver one-on-one for most of his career. And his 11.3 punt return average would place him among the top 15 all time if the Redskins hadn't limited him to 51 career returns because he was too valuable to lose to injury. Green has missed just 22 of 319 possible games, only three since 1992.
"Darrell isn't big, but he's fearless," said former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard, who took Green with the last pick in the first round of the 1983 draft. "Pound for pound, he's one of the toughest guys in the league. And Darrell's competitive spirit is the equal of anybody who has ever played."
Art Monk, who once held the NFL's season and career receiving marks when he played for the Redskins, said Green impressed him from the start.
"Darrell's small, but he's strong," Monk said. "I never had any questions about Darrell. He played well enough his first year to have gone to the Pro Bowl. His speed made up for his size. What I remember the most about Darrell is his tenacity. He's right up there with Terry Metcalf, Earnest Byner and Gary Clark as the most determined players I knew."
Like many veteran NFL observers, Beathard and Monk always will remember Green leaping Chicago's Cap Boso and returning a punt 52 yards for a touchdown in frigid Soldier Field to beat the Bears in a 1987 playoff game despite pulling rib muscles on the play. Green had the fortitude to play through the pain and break up a last-gasp pass to Minnesota's Darrin Nelson in the following Sunday's NFC Championship game.
Those big moments both happened almost 14 years ago, but there was Green on Sunday, stepping in front of Philadelphia's Na Brown and intercepting a pass in a record 19th season. Over the years, Green has picked off 41 quarterbacks, from Ron Jaworski, born in 1951, to Shawn King, born in 1977. He has started opposite 12 corners, played in 12 stadiums the NFL no longer uses half of which have been torn down and has been teammates with Jim Hart, who's now 57, and Ifeayni Ohalete, who's 22.
"Darrell has lasted so long because his skills are right up there with the best, because he has stayed almost injury-free and because he's a very intelligent guy," said Richie Petitbon, Green's defensive coordinator from 1983 to 1992 and his coach in 1993. "Darrell's also a great person. He was always upbeat, always a pleasure to be around. If you had 11 Darrell Greens on your side, you wouldn't lose too many games."
And to a man, those who have been on Green's side the past 19 years are glad he's going to make it a solid two decades in burgundy and gold.
"If you can play 19 years, you can hold your breath for 20," Johnson said. "Darrell's healthy and playing well. He's not just hanging on. With the tragedy of September 11 and the way the Redskins' season started [0-5], Darrell deserved a better sendoff for all his years of service. They should have a great celebration of his two decades in the NFL."
Notes Linebacker LaVar Arrington was named Redskin of the Year by the Quarterback Club yesterday. Arrington, a second-year player, won over running back Stephen Davis, cornerback Champ Bailey and defensive tackle Kenard Lang in a vote by local media. …
Further evaluations on the sprained ankle of linebacker Kevin Mitchell showed no fracture. However, he and Davis (knee) are expected to sit out practice today.
*Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.

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