- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — His sweats were trimmed with blue, not burgundy. So was the short dreadlocked hair. And he says he has lost 23 pounds from a personal high of 270 during the offseason.

In some ways, it was a different LaVar Arrington who stood in front of his locker yesterday and expounded on his role as the new strongside linebacker of the defending NFC East champion New York Giants, who open their season Sunday night on NBC against the high-powered Indianapolis Colts.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Arrington, who left the Washington Redskins in March. “It’s a big game. Everybody will be watching.”

Of course, all eyes were on him the previous five years. The Redskins selected Arrington with the No.2 pick overall in the 2000 draft. He was named to the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons and served as the face of the franchise during some of its lean years.

Arrington, however, finished his tenure with the club on poor terms with the defensive coaching staff and owner Dan Snyder.

“It really hit me when I checked in for camp that I wasn’t in Washington anymore,” Arrington said. “I’ve been embraced and accepted by the team I’m on now.”

Arrington sat out two preseason games as a precaution after knee injuries limited him the past two years. But he said his 28-year-old body hasn’t felt as good as it does now since the summer of 2004.

“My body feels much, much better moving around,” Arrington said. “I feel quicker. I feel faster. There’s not as much strain on my joints as there had been. Mentally, I feel really good about the interaction between me, the coaches and the players. … I’ve found a comfort zone. I’m still learning, but I still feel really good about where I’m at right now.”

Michael Strahan, the Giants’ perennial Pro Bowl defensive end, certainly is upbeat about Arrington’s presence on a unit that was weak at outside linebacker in recent years.

“LaVar is fast, strong, athletic,” Strahan said. “He brings an intimidation factor to that linebacker corps.”

Arrington produced just one sack in 17 games over the past two tumultuous years but had 17 in the two previous seasons. He’s well-versed in intimidating offensive players.

“If I get a clean shot on anybody, it’s going to be very enjoyable,” said Arrington, who joked that not only would he hit Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the brother of Giants quarterback Eli Manning, but he would hit their mother if she were the quarterback.

“In my mind, I know what I’m still capable of doing,” Arrington said. “[I want] to prove to myself that I can still do it. Watching myself on film this morning, I was fairly impressed. It’s just a matter of getting into a rhythm and getting into real game situations.

“I’m just getting excited about getting under way. Preseason matters, and it doesn’t. It matters now.”

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