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Old 04-26-2006, 11:46 PM   #1
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Default LaVar Arrington - Starting Over In New York

Mike Donnelly

For the past several weeks, LaVar Arrington has been on a mission to find himself a fresh start and an opportunity to get some payback in more than many ways. After signing a reported seven-year, $49 million deal with the New York Giants over the weekend, the deal has brought an elated Arrington plenty of relief and excitement heading into next season.

"I'm real excited, just having the opportunity to have a new beginning" said Arrington. "I think this is a great situation. There is no substitute for great players, and obviously great coaches and a great organization."

Arrington's signing brings significant depth to a Giants team that lost three starting linebackers during the course of last season to injuries and also adds a game changing player to the defense. His ability to make big plays has been his signature ever since he left Penn State as the second overall selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. As an imposing outside linebacker in the NFL, Arrington has amassed 396 tackles, 22.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and three interceptions in 67 starts during 79 regular season games.

A player of Arrington's caliber almost makes him a sure fit in an already formidable defense that features Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. It also re-unites Arrington with former Washington Redskin teammate Antonio Pierce and recently re-signed Giant, Brandon Short, a teammate of Arrington's at Penn State. With Pierce patrolling the middle and Arrington and Short pitted to his outside, the trio could make up one of the best linebacking corps in the league.
"I had a lot of battles with a lot of these guys in this locker room. And there is a mutual respect."

"I had a lot of battles with a lot of these guys in this locker room" said Arrington. "And there is a mutual respect. So I am aware of a lot of guys in here. So I think it lessens it a little bit, just being familiar with guys. So I think it is a great situation. Like I said, I know exactly what type of situation that I am stepping into."

Arrington, a three-time Pro Bowler who became the face of the Redskins early on in his career, spent his first six seasons in the NFL with Washington. His number 56 jersey grew to be one of the most popular among Redskins fans but in his last two seasons, Arrington's relationship with the team went south. In 2004, a knee injury which occurred in week two sidelined him for most of the season. He managed to return for two more games until his knee once again gave out, causing him to finish the year on injured reserve. The off-season didn't turn out much better as Arrington became entangled in a heated dispute with the club over bonus language in his contract while he was also trying to recover from the knee injury that was slowly struggling to get back to optimum health.

As the start of the 2005 approached, an ongoing battle between Arrington and the defensive coaching staff over his slow recovery from the knee injury but mostly from his alleged unwillingness to fully play within the defensive system lead to Arrington going from team superstar to being benched. Despite earning eight regular season starts, coming mostly late in the season, and two starts in the postseason, the damaged relationships appeared to be too much to overcome. With a high salary cap number further complicating Arrington's situation, he and the team eventually agreed to go their separate ways, allowing for Arrington to buy his way out of town in March for $4.4 million.

Until his signing with the Giants, Arrington was one of only a few marquee names still floating in the free agent pool. Among the rumored teams in the chase for Arrington were Green Bay, Miami, Jacksonville and Cincinnati. But after weeks of constant speculation and hype surrounding his destination, Arrington finally found a suitor in the Giants where he felt confident that it was the best situation for him.

"I think you guys were more stressed out than I was," Arrington said to the media on Tuesday. "I was just taking my time through the process. I was going through the whole thing from a very critical standpoint. I think so many times people rush into things. Obviously I got caught in a situation where I was rushing and I made a decision that ultimately made me a free agent in the end. But I just felt like, with every decision that I made now, I just take my time. And it doesn't matter if people are getting restless or want to speculate whatever they want to speculate. At the end of the day I have to make the right decision for me."

One of the main concerns for Arrington during his search for a new team regarded his wish to remain in the NFC East. With the Giants he'll be able face the Redskins twice a year and perhaps make them pay for letting him go out the way he did. "It will be fun," said Arrington about facing the Redskins twice a year. "I think my best football is ahead of me. So to have the type of guys on this team and to bring what I know I can bring to the table, any team is going to be fun to play against. But obviously, playing against your old team, your former team, that has a little bit more meaning, personally."

With Arrington officially in New York and wearing a new number, 55, he can now hopefully put to rest all of the controversy surrounding his time in Washington and focus on delivering his big play capabilities with the Giants. "I think it is a dead issue," said Arrington on the perception of being unwanted in Washington. "I think that that issue has been revisited in ways, more often, than it should be. I think that I am so excited about being a Giant now and being in this city and being able to bring what I am going to bring to this organization and to this community. So that is what I am focused on. It is such a dead issue."
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