Contrary views and old adversaries will collide all over the NFC East this weekend. That's the theme for Week 5 at the Meadowlands and in South Philadelphia.
Not only do the Redskins see former teammate LaVar Arrington as a New York Giant for the first time but also T.O. visits his old gang on the Eagles.
Ever since he departed the Redskins after six seasons in burgundy and gold, Arrington, the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and one-time face of the franchise, has been pointing to this game.
His 1-2 Giants are in desperate need of a win and you can bet he'll be revved up to go against his former team with so much on the line in an early-season NFC East showdown.
So far, Arrington hasn't exactly lifted the Giants' defense into the dominant category. He has a modest 12 tackles through three games and his team has lost to Indianapolis 26-21 and Seattle 42-30. In between, the Giants edged Philly 30-24 in overtime.
Asked about his new linebacker, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin had this to say on Wednesday: "LaVar, I thought, got better last weekend. Hopefully he will continue to do that."
You'll have to look elsewhere for a ringing endorsement.
Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, one of Arrington's teammates with the Redskins between 2001-04, says Arrington is fitting in well with his new club.
"He came up here with a different mindset," Pierce said. "It's like a new beginning for LaVar. Training camp slowed him up a little bit with the [knee] injury. It slowed him up in practice.
"The past couple of weeks his legs are back underneath him, he's running around and doing the best he can. We haven't been able to use everything we would want to use with him because of the way the score has been the last two weeks."
Added Pierce: "LaVar might disagree, but I think you can get kind of complacent. You get used to your surroundings and he was [regarded as] 'the man' there. It's different when you get knocked down and people say you're not as good as you used to be.
"He came in here with a fresh mentality and fresh attitude of working hard. The guy was here every day for off-season workouts. I was in Washington with him for four years and I never saw him do that. He's more upbeat again, not down like he was my last year in Washington."
In his final two seasons in Washington, especially, Arrington sparred verbally with various members of the Redskins' organization. His polemics and sometimes histrionics over everything from contract language to defensive schemes cast something of a pall over Redskin Park prior to his departure in the spring.
Just how much--if any--of that backdrop influences Sunday's game is pure conjecture. Some of it still lingers, to be sure.
Perhaps the first sign that Arrington will be extra motivated and intense this Sunday: He declined to be part of a conference call with Washington, D.C., media on Wednesday.
During the Redskins' open locker room session, the topic of Arrington was brought up with players.
"I'm sure there'll be a lot of emotion for him," cornerback Shawn Springs. "For a long time, even when I played in Seattle, LaVar was viewed as the symbol of this organization. He really carried that, and he didn't want to lose that. I think he thought he would retire here. But that's the way the NFL is now. But LaVar--he was a diehard Redskin. I think it'll be emotional for him."
Joe Salave'a said it would be "freaky" to see Arrington in a blue jersey.
"I'm sure he's going to do everything he needs to get done to help his team win," Salave'a said.
Reflecting on Arrington's departure from the team last March, head coach Joe Gibbs replied: "I always look at it and think what I could have done to make it a better situation. You always hate to lose a player like that. There were a number of things we were going through over those couple of years. The injury situation was a part of it. But it is my responsibility to try and work with every player we have."
Linebackers coach Dale Lindsey, known to be hard on Arrington the last few years, was more candid when asked about his former player.
"The only defense we are going to worry about is ours," Lindsey told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "If he knows something about our offense, then our offense needs to take care of that. I don't think that makes a difference in a game personally. You still have to play. You can know what's coming, and still get whipped."
At this point, what is certain is that the Giants have had trouble stopping opposing offenses while the Redskins are coming off their best showing of 2006, the 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville sparked by Santana Moss and his three TDs.
"We've given up chunks of yardage in the air. That's really prohibited us from playing the way we want to play," says Coughlin. "There have been too many big plays and too many consistent drives for the opponent."
He continued: "There has not been enough pressure on the quarterback. It has been an issue to get the other [offense] off of the field."