- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Washington Redskins weak side linebacker Jessie Armstead is pumped for Sunday's game at Giants Stadium. Not, as most might suspect, because he wants to prove the New York Giants wrong for cutting him in February after nine standout seasons. Armstead is simply excited to face his buddies and play again in front of the fans with whom he had a mutual adoration.

"I'm probably the person that New York treated the best," Armstead said. "The fans loved me I had so many wonderful years in New York that it's hard to for me to knock them. When you're a Giant, you always say you're a Giant for life. My veins bled red and blue."

Armstead, who grew up in Dallas and played at the University of Miami, is still such a New Yorker that he threw himself a 32nd birthday party at a restaurant there last month and invited a dozen or so former Giants teammates.

"New York gave me an opportunity that no other team did," said Armstead, the Giants' eighth-round pick in the 1993 draft. "There was no other team that can say, 'we knew Jessie would be this or that.' New York didn't know. I'll always be beholden to New York. I can't say too much negative about [Giants general manager] Ernie Accorsi and [coach] Jim Fassel. I got a six-year, $36million contract with them there. I can't hold any grudges. What was done is done. I can't do anything about that. Any kid who had the opportunity to play for the Giants should be mad if he gets released because you can't beat the organization. They treat you very, very well."

Armstead repaid the Giants by leading them in special teams tackles as a rookie and in tackles on defense in all but one of the six seasons he was a starter. He was picked for the past five Pro Bowls, but his high salary cap number, advancing age and slight dropoff in production last year while playing the last half of the season with an aching hamstring caused the Giants to bid him farewell. The Redskins gave Armstead a three-year, $4.5million contract as soon as the free agency signing period began on March1.

"I've done everything that a player can possibly do in New York," Armstead said. "If I go out there on Sunday and have 10 tackles and a sack, what is that? I can't prove a point to them. I've been proving points to them for nine years. I gave them everything I had. I can't make this Jessie Armstead's war. It's the Redskins against the Giants. I haven't had nothing circled on the calendar, no countdown. I know one thing for sure: I'm going to have a bigger target on me than anybody else out there. I'm quite sure those guys want to prove a point towards me."

Redskins backup linebacker Eddie Mason thinks Armstead is playing coy about not wanting to show up the Giants. And Mason plans to help his friend do just that.

"Jessie's going to be so psyched up for this one," Mason said. "He's probably going to get massages and all the treatment he can to make sure he's 100 percent healthy. I can't wait to see him on Sunday. He'll probably give a little speech. There ain't no telling what he might do. I'm excited for him to get an opportunity to go back up there and play those guys. You always play hard, but I'm going to dig a little deeper for Jessie this weekend."

Like Armstead, Redskins Pro Bowl strong-side linebacker LaVar Arrington can't believe the Giants let him go.

"I don't see how [the Giants] let Jessie get away," Arrington said. "I'm glad you did. He has made a big difference for us. He teaches you the little things. He has been steady all year. He has been making plays all year."

Including Sunday's unofficial stats, Armstead is second on the Redskins to Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter with 62 tackles and 43 solos. Armstead leads the team with two fumble recoveries, has two sacks for minus-17 yards and is on pace for 111 tackles, his most in three years.

"You've got to be able to make that adjustment [changing teams] and I've done that real well coming to the Redskins," Armstead said. "I've had a good, solid season, but any time you're not the top team, it's kind of hard to pat yourself on the back about anything. [But] my hamstring's not torn. I can run sideline to sideline. I can move freely where I was kind of restricted for half a season last year. We're improving and we can be a lights-out defense if we make sure we work at it day-in and day-out."

Armstead always does.

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