- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

After several weeks of gritting his teeth and vowing, “No time to hurt,” Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington now has time to hurt.

Two to four weeks, to be precise.

The Pro Bowl linebacker underwent arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday in Birmingham, Ala., after his right knee unexpectedly and rapidly deteriorated Wednesday night. Arrington will miss at least Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys as he spends the next week on crutches.

Surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews, a renowned orthopedist and senior consultant for the Redskins. Andrews is scheduled to check Arrington’s knee in about a week.

The development complicates the task of assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams, who is running the NFL’s top-ranked unit but earlier this week lost starting defensive end Phillip Daniels. Daniels, who was diagnosed with a torn groin, also is expected to be out two to four weeks.

Against the Cowboys, a pair of seasoned but unproven reserves are expected to make their first NFL starts. While Ron Warner fills in at Daniels’ right end position, Lemar Marshall should take over for Arrington at weakside linebacker.

“We’ve got some guys out, and we’re going to have to have some other people step in and play great,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “That’s the way to look at it. It’s some other guys’ opportunity to play. Now is the time.”

Arrington was diagnosed with a tear of the lateral meniscus. He initially injured the knee in the Sept.12 opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although there was some concern he might miss last weekend’s New York Giants game, he consistently spoke of his determination to play and ended up participating fully.

This week’s signs were good. Early Wednesday, according to Gibbs, Arrington’s knee appeared as healthy as it had been in some time. But that night, said Gibbs, “It kind of ballooned up on us.” Arrington traveled to Birmingham yesterday accompanied by Redskins director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer.

The Cowboys game represents Arrington’s first regular-season absence since 2001. A string of 35 straight starts will be broken Monday.

“We’re going to have to go until he gets back,” Gibbs said. “From time to time up here, that happens. We hate it. LaVar sucked up his guts last week and played with it. We thought LaVar did a heck of a job for us. It’s just one of those things that happens. You’ve got to get it taken care of.”

Losing Daniels already was considered significant for a defense that has been very solid, particularly against the run. In its first season under Williams, the unit has kept the Redskins in a pair of contests while Gibbs’ offense struggled.

The absence of Arrington could be a major setback, even though the three-time Pro Bowl pick didn’t make any huge plays in the first two games. Arrington’s incredible raw talent, particularly in rushing the quarterback, draws the focus of opposing offenses and might be one reason linebackers Marcus Washington and Antonio Pierce have stood out.

“It’s tough,” Washington said. “But another guy will be excited that he gets an opportunity to come in and play well.”

That guy appears to be Marshall, whose role gradually has increased since he was signed as a young project in December 2001. A safety at Michigan State, Marshall was somewhat undersized when he arrived in Washington. Now 27, he has bulked up to about 230 pounds and still has the quickness to make an impact.

In the first two games, Marshall played in a few defensive packages and on pretty much all of Washington’s special teams. Despite the national television audience and charged atmosphere Monday night, he believes he won’t be overwhelmed.

“I’m not nervous at all,” Marshall said. “This is a big game, so you want to step up. You don’t want to make any mistakes and hurt the team. I know all my teammates feel comfortable with me going in, and I feel comfortable taking LaVar’s place.”

Gibbs also left open the possibility that Mike Barrow might overcome lingering tendinitis in his knee and make his Redskins debut. Barrow has been sidelined since the first week of training camp. He has participated more extensively in practice in recent weeks but hasn’t been able to sustain his health.

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