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AP:Arrington Starts Over With Optimism


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Arrington Starts Over With Optimism


AP Sports Writer

Posted September 7 2004, 4:10 PM EDT

ASHBURN, Va. -- There's a simpler message posted on LaVar Arrington's locker this year: a bumper sticker that reads "Walk your talk."

"Some guy sent it to me," Arrington said. "It was so fitting that I put it on my locker. A lot of guys talk. I've been talking. We haven't done anything."

The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker is known for using unusual motivational tools, but underneath them all lies a frustratingly familiar theme. Each year, it seems the Washington Redskins are starting over again, and Arrington finds himself trying to explain why this time the changes just might breed success.

"This team has a certain aura about it," Arrington said. "I felt this way about my high school team as a freshman, and we went undefeated. It's been a long time, but I do know what it is to be on a championship team, and I just think we have that feel. It's a special feeling."

Wow! Arrington hasn't sounded that positive since, well, last year, when he posted a description of the Battle of Thermopylae on his locker and declared: "We just started a whole new era."

With that in mind, the next question was inevitable, and Arrington knew it was coming: How is this feeling different from 2003, when the team went 5-11? Or different from 2002 (7-9)? Or 2000 or 2001 (both 8-8)?

Arrington's answer? This time, he's really, really sure.

"In the years past, you're always optimistic about what the season holds, but you're just unsure," Arrington said. "I don't feel unsure. Now what may happen may happen. We may be worse than we were in years past, but I just don't feel it."

Asked if his optimism was because of the return of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, Arrington at first said no: "I don't know that it's fair that you guys are putting all that pressure on coach Gibbs."

After thinking about it, however, Arrington changed his answer.

"Directly, you could say it's because of coach Gibbs," Arrington said, "because of the atmosphere that has been created around here is definitely a product of him."

Arrington also has reason to be excited about his own game. Despite the Pro Bowl accolades, Arrington's NFL development has been hindered because he's had five defensive coordinators in five years. Each had a different idea how best to channel Arrington's aggressive -- sometimes overaggressive -- style.

Arrington thinks Gregg Williams, the newest assistant in charge of defense, has it right. Arrington will be playing mostly on the weak side, as he did at Penn State, and will be blitzing early and often.

"For all these years that I've been here telling everybody that I've been looking for a system where people could see why they drafted me to come here -- I think I'm in that system now," Arrington said. "It's cool, man. It's a noticeable difference."

Arrington feels so good about the team's prospects that he is challenging Redskins fans to be more supportive. The team plays in the largest stadium in the league and has a waiting list of more than 100,000, but there's never anything close to a packed house at kickoff and many tickets go unused.

"If you don't want to come, give your tickets to somebody else," Arrington said. "I think this is the year of the 12th man. It would be sad to say that we lost a game because a team felt comfortable coming in to FedEx Field."

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press

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