- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington didn't remember making the plays he saw on game films yesterday after suffering an apparent concussion. Ironically, the Redskins weren't trying to forget the past for once.

Beating the Carolina Panthers 17-14 in overtime on Sunday after an 0-5 start brought relief to the growing pessimism at Redskin Park. A short practice and easy sprints let players joke over plays that might have caused silence over past weeks.

It was only one victory against a hapless opponent, but the Redskins now know they're not the NFL's worst team. While a 1-5 mark doesn't put them in the playoff chase, it was the third straight competitive game after losing to the New York Giants 23-9 and Dallas Cowboys 9-7 in preceding weeks.

"There's a sense of, 'Hey, it works. It really works,'" coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Schottenheimer's rigid training camp and rules brought skepticism among players. The bad start didn't diminish it. But players now see themselves as competitive as the Redskins ready for the Giants on Sunday at FedEx Field. The opening three blowout losses by a combined 112-16 seem a distant past.

"I'm just so tired of hearing, 'The Redskins are washed up. We can't win games.' I just feel like maybe, just maybe getting this game and understanding our capabilities and seeing things happen might be the turnaround," Arrington said. "We almost came out of New York with a victory. We almost came out of Dallas with a victory. Everybody talks about all these losses, but we could be 3-3 right now. A lot of confidence came out of this victory. This team can be really good."

No more talk of "Toilet Bowl" or "Gutter Bowl" games. The Redskins spent only their second Monday in nearly a year enjoying a victory, given last year's 2-6 slide included a season-ending win. At least there were no more whispers of finishing 0-16.

"A win is important at some time because as long as you don't have one you're always staring at the unthinkable do you go 0-16?" Schottenheimer said. "Once you've been successful your confidence level increases. We have to build on that."

The offensive drought ended yesterday with 12 plays of at least 10 yards. However, the Redskins scored only one touchdown in regulation. The team didn't click until Arrington's electrifying 67-yard interception for a touchdown that closed the Panthers' lead to 14-7 with 10:10 remaining. The offense scored on its first play afterward to tie the game, moved 67 yards on the following possession before missing the game-winning field goal and then won on the opening drive in overtime.

The offense gained confidence off a defensive play. Center Cory Raymer warned it wasn't good enough for the offense to feel proud, though.

"It's good to win, but we had to show up in the fourth quarter," he said. "The only reason we won was the defense kept us in the game, so the offense still has to figure it out."

Figuring out things was still on Arrington's mind. His second concussion in 22 games left Arrington puzzled. He played on instinct, but he played pretty well despite missing 25 minutes of the first half. Arrington's mind was clear one day after getting kneed in the helmet on the first defensive snap, but he could still feel the resonating hit.

"I hear echoes sometimes. You hear, 'Doom, doom, doom, doom' like you're in a big room somewhere. It's kind of neat. You get used to it," Arrington said. "The day you can't take it anymore you have to walk away from this sport, but I'm not nowhere near that."

Meanwhile, defensive lineman Kenard Lang was preparing a new replacement slogan for "Gutter Bowl." He can smell the success literally.

"Out of the gutter and into the flower bed," Lang said. "Right now we're smelling daisies. The more we get better the closer we get to the red roses and white roses and get that sweet smell."

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