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In talk with mates, Arrington puts team above himself

ASHBURN, Va. -- If you think Washington Redskins linebacker
LaVar Arrington looks like a maniac on the football field, imagine
the scene when he was watching his alma mater, Penn State, beat
Wisconsin on Saturday.

"Did you see that game? Oh my gosh. It was crazy," said
Arrington, his eyes as wide as saucers. "I was so proud to be a
Nittany Lion. That was unreal watching that on television. I felt
like I was at the game. I'm sitting there running around my house.
I'm pushing my brother out of the way and stuff like that, jumping
up. I was calling out audibles and everything."

Then Arrington got to wondering: Why aren't NFL players able to
retain the unbridled enthusiasm they felt as college players? That
night, Arrington helped the Redskins address that very issue when the defense held a players-only meeting on the eve of
Washington's game against Philadelphia.

It was assistant coach Gregg Williams who had suggested the meeting, telling
his veterans it was a "good time for someone to step up and
talk."

The curious fact is that Arrington chose to do so.

The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker had only recently worked his
way back into the starting rotation after beginning the season
disgruntled and on the bench. Arrington had no idea how much he
would play against the Eagles, but the unlikely combination of
Williams and Penn State triggered him to address his teammates for
only the third time in his six-year career.

"It's from the heart if I give it," Arrington said. "It's not
ceremonial."

Arrington covered several topics, including the saga of Eagles
receiver Terrell Owens, whose suspension threatened to overshadow
the game.

"You hear about all the things surrounding the guy from
Philly," Arrington said. "It was like, the headline will read
'They couldn't do it without him' if we won, and 'They can do it
without him' if they won. It's sad that for such a big game the
attention was somewhere else. I wanted to make sure that as a unit
it didn't distract us."

Arrington also used the forum to address his own situation,
telling his teammates that he didn't want to be a distraction.

"Whether I start or whether I don't, it's about this team, it's
about this unit, and we need to be together," said Arrington, who
learned the next day he would be starting the game.

But the topic that seemed to stick with his teammates the most
was Arrington's plea to bring back the college feel.

"When we were in college, everybody's jumping around,"
linebacker Marcus Washington said. "You're excited, you're playing
because you love it, and you want to bring that same intensity to
the game."

Asked why the college enthusiasm wanes once players get to the
NFL, Arrington cited the big paychecks, the distractions of
grown-up life and free agency, which has players bouncing from city
to city with no chance to bond.

"Guys aren't sure they're going to be with a team," Arrington
said. "It's hard to have the inner love for the franchise."

Arrington has done his best to make the Redskins his
professional version of Penn State. He moved his family to the
Washington area and signed a long-term contract, although his
future seemed in doubt when he was riding the bench a few weeks
ago.

Now he's firmly established himself back in the lineup. He tied
for the team high with 10 tackles in the 17-10 win over the Eagles
-- the number was increased from six after coaches reviewed the game
tape -- and Washington's 5-3 record has him thinking about his
playoff debut. The Redskins play Tampa Bay (5-3) on Sunday.

"I've never been over eight wins in the NFL," he said.
"That's something I want to experience, to have a winning season
and go to the playoffs."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.