- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Don’t rule out an early return.

That was the message last night from Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, who suggested he might be able to beat doctors’ most optimistic timetable and recover from knee surgery in less than two weeks.

“Two-to-four they say, so that means I’ll probably be back in, like, a week and a half,” Arrington said before the Redskins’ game against the Dallas Cowboys. “Hopefully I’ll make that move and be back somewhere short of what everybody’s expecting. We’ll see what happens.”

The Pro Bowl linebacker expressed disappointment that his meniscus tear became debilitating just before the first of two meetings with Washington’s archrival. His string of 35 straight starts was broken last night, but just as importantly it was Arrington’s first missed game against the Cowboys.

“It hurts,” Arrington said. “I know it will hurt more when the game’s about to start. But it hurts. And this one — of all the games not to miss. I tried. I tried. I held out until Thursday. … I was holding out. But for the better of the team, for myself, I think this was the right thing to do.”

Arrington’s comments were his first since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. After being somewhat reluctant to discuss details of the injury while battling it — repeatedly dismissing the pain by saying, “No time to hurt” — Arrington opened up last night in front of the Redskins’ locker room at FedEx Field.

Arrington acknowledged how difficult it was to get through the Sept.19 loss to the New York Giants, explaining that his face mask of Giants running back Tiki Barber — for which Arrington was fined $5,000 by the NFL — was emblematic of his inability to make his usual plays.

“I’ll tell you like this: I played with straight heart,” Arrington said. “Not to try and bring attention to myself, because I don’t want to. That’s why I haven’t even talked to the media. I didn’t want to be a distraction to this team. But my cartilage, I tore it in the first game. I tore it in the first quarter. I played the whole game against Tampa Bay, and I played the New York Giants game.

“Wednesday it started feeling pretty bad. Thursday it just flared up on me really bad. I wasn’t going to make it. My knee was too big for me to run around. I mean, I’m sure I could have did it. Like I did last week and the week before. But I’m face-masking dudes, and I’m not able to get across blocks or anything like that. It wasn’t worth it. I was letting the team down by doing that. I had to go ahead and get it right.”

Arrington’s decision followed conversations with coaches in which he decided for full strength for much of the season over compromised performance in coming weeks. He admitted he tried to hide the injury for a period of time.

“I didn’t want to know how bad I was hurting,” Arrington said. “It was a matter of, should I go through the season being average? Or should I get it done and be able to come back and contribute the right way? We thought it was probably best to get it done.”

The Redskins defense ranked No.1 in the NFL heading into last night’s game, but that might not continue with so many starters injured. Linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) has yet to play as a Redskin, while defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin) is scheduled to miss two to four weeks.

Linebacker Lemar Marshall, a three-year pro out of Michigan State, replaced Arrington in the lineup against the Cowboys. Arrington was confident the unit would compensate for his absence.

“I think we can get through,” Arrington said. “They can hold it until I get back.”

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