Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington and offensive tackle Chris Samuels arrived together when they were drafted second and third overall last year. Now they’re heading to Hawaii together.
Arrington and Samuels were named to the Pro Bowl yesterday, validating the 2000 draft for providing franchise cornerstones. Both seemed overwhelmed by the honor even though it was expected in the vote by fans, players and coaches. The Pro Bowl is Feb.9 in Honolulu.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Arrington said. “To be considered one of the elite hasn’t really sunk in yet. I didn’t want to have my hopes up too high. I’ll probably start crying when I start talking to my mom. I felt like I was having a solid year. I still feel I can take it up another level.”
Said Samuels: “I put in the hard work before the offseason program started. I knew I was having a good season, but with the Pro Bowl you don’t know. I wanted it bad. It has been one of my goals.”
Arrington missed two games with injuries but was still considered the team’s leading prospect. Arrington leads the Redskins with 117 tackles, including seven for a loss. Arrington’s biggest play was a 67-yard touchdown interception that keyed a 17-14 overtime victory over Carolina that ended the Redskins’ 0-5 start.
Perhaps the only bump in the road Arrington encountered was alienating opposing players through his aggressive play, which drew four fines worth $35,000.
“I think it [shows] respect,” Arrington said. “I’m sorry if it offends somebody that I don’t want to be your friend on the field. This is football, and you have to get across to the people that I’m playing hard and I’m going to hit you.”
Samuels lost 30 pounds during the offseason so he would be quicker. He permitted only one sack.
“Chris made me a fan of offensive linemen,” Arrington said. “I never paid attention to offensive linemen until I started paying attention to Chris.”
The team’s four players who went to the 2000 Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, running back Stephen Davis, tight end Stephen Alexander and defensive end Marco Coleman failed to return. Bailey is a first alternate and Davis a second alternate. Kick returner Michael Bates is a second alternate, while defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson is a third alternate.
Alexander and Coleman were compromised by injuries, but Davis and Bailey delivered good performances. Davis’ 1,284 yards are just two yards less than the NFC’s leader, Green Bay running back Ahman Green, who made the Pro Bowl along with St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk (1,214) and San Francisco’s Garrison Hearst (1,149). New Orleans’ Ricky Williams (1,212) is the first alternate.
“I think Stephen’s as good as there is in football,” coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “He has had, in our view, a season that would warrant being in the Pro Bowl.”
Bailey was upset over failing to make the team behind Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber, Philadelphia’s Troy Vincent and St. Louis’ Aeneas Williams. Bailey snared only three interceptions this season after five in each of his first two years. However, Bailey has regularly single-covered the opposition’s best receiver.
“They know who’s the best out there,” he said. “It bothers me I didn’t make it. I’ve been getting it done.”
Note Receiver Michael Westbrook (sprained ankle) and Arrington (sprained knee) missed practice and are “50-50” against Arizona on Sunday, Schottenheimer said. Davis (sprained knee) was limited, while guard Ben Coleman (sprained knee) practiced. Both are listed as questionable but considered probable.