- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

The second season of Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington has included a variety of injuries, a few ill-advised penalties for overexuberance and one slightly scary helmet-to-helmet crunching of teammate Bruce Smith.

And Arrington has no plans of slowing down.

"Why would I throttle down?" Arrington said incredulously yesterday, sitting on a table in the Redskin Park locker room. "You know what? I would have no idea how to do that. I wouldn't know how to hit somebody slower, or try to hit them softer. I just can't. I don't play that way."

Teammates don't want him to. They want him to continue making the ferocious plays that are quickly becoming his trademark chasing down ball carriers, making key tackles and thumping tight ends and running backs whenever they come near.

"The only thing I said to was just to play smart," said Smith, a defensive end bound for the Hall of Fame. "And that was in relationship to one or two 15-yard penalties. Other than that, no. Don't slow down. I'm loving his aggressive play. He's only going to get better."

Sure, there's a chance Arrington, 23, could knock himself out of the league. Already this year he has sprained a shoulder, sprained a knee, suffered a concussion and incurred a high ankle sprain. But he has showed an incredible tolerance for pain, missing just 11/2 games to those injuries. Plus, many say full speed is the only speed to go.

"The minute you [ask him to throttle down], he gets hurt," coach Marty Schottenheimer said, adding that he has no fear of Arrington giving himself a career-ending injury. "Not with the recuperative parts he has. He can play until he's 50."

Smith doesn't mind taking some "friendly fire," as he calls it. That happened in last weekend's 17-10 victory at Denver, when Smith was chasing Broncos quarterback Brian Griese and Arrington was stepping up for the tackle. Griese moved just enough to dodge the point of their attacks which ended up being each other.

"I will tell you it's the hardest hit I've ever taken," Smith said with a slight smile. "They say friendly fire is the worst kind. But as long as he's out there playing as hard as he's playing, I think it's great for the team."

Arrington had four big hits in last weekend's first half alone, the most violent coming on Broncos fullback Tony Carter. Carter was trying to catch a pass in the left flat and dropped the ball when Arrington drove into his torso. The play initially was ruled a fumble before being deemed incomplete.

That was an "ooooooh" hit, in Arrington's vernacular a tackle that makes the crowd gasp at its force. In Sunday's key game at Philadelphia, he hopes the Redskins have a few more and at least one on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

"We've got a whole bag of them left," Arrington said. "We've got enough for the rest of the season. We're going to be dishing them out. It's the season of giving."

Such hits appear to inhibit opponents' focus and make them think about saving themselves.

"If I were to get hit that hard, I couldn't look him in the eye," Smith said. "It's just something that goes along with the territory. If you have that capability to knock somebody out, or make them think twice about coming up in that hole again, yeah, there's an intimidation factor."

In addition, the hits inspire teammates to play better.

"What it does to us as a defensive unit whether it's LaVar, myself or any other player it gives the defense the enthusiasm it looks for," linebacker Robert Jones said. "It gets everybody rolling. It trickles over to the offense and special teams. Everybody starts playing together."

That's what has happened in recent weeks. The Redskins (4-5) have rallied after losing their first five games, setting up this key battle against the Eagles (6-3). It's the biggest game of the season, but Arrington wouldn't notice. He swears by the statement many players repeat like a mantra: every game is the most important he'll play.

"Man, if we had lost every game [this season], it would still be the same magnitude," Arrington said. "I don't treat this thing any differently. You guys treat it different. I don't. That's the bottom line. If you guys recall, I've been believing in us from Day 1. This is nothing new to me. The march is on. Washington is marching."


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