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When Closure Is the Best Policy




Four top college players made visits to Redskins Park back in the 2000 offseason. As you may remember, in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft, Courtney Brown showed up at the Redskins' facility. So did Chris Samuels and Peter Warrick.

And then there was LaVar Arrington, chosen by the Redskins with the No. 2 pick that year.

The first thing you came to realize about the much-heralded Penn State linebacker was that he had a star quality, a charisma, a presence. His first move was a bold one, donning No. 56, a sacred number for any young linebacker, given the way Lawrence Taylor changed the game.

Late Sunday night, with salary cap considerations and NFL labor negotiations swirling, the Redskins announced that the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker had reached an agreement with the team. With the help of agents Carl and Kevin Poston, Arrington became a free agent.

The Redskins get salary cap help but also part ways with a legitimate star player. That presence, or star quality, Arrington brought into Redskins Park as a 21-year-old fresh out of Happy Valley back in the winter of 2000 will be on display in another NFL city in 2006.

In essence, this is an issue that truly needed closure. The last two years of Arrington's career have been unproductive ones for him, owing to an assortment of injuries, a series of contract-related disputes and differences of opinion with coaches as to how his skills should be employed.

Arrington started just two games in 2004 and 10 games last season. Close friends such as Kevin Mitchell and Shawn Barber were gone from the Redskins' scene during that stretch as well.

It's best for both sides to turn the page and move on. The situation bears a resemblance to the one involving Deion Sanders back in 2001. After Sanders, another player with star quality, indicated he did not care to play for then-coach Marty Schottenheimer, a long gap ensued before the team and the player went separate ways. Closure was the only element that made sense.

It is hoped that by putting an end to the 2006 LaVar Arrington situation, both he and the Redskins can somehow be better off.

"We wish the past two years could have been smoother," head coach Joe Gibbs said on Monday afternoon.

Gibbs explained that late on Sunday evening, Arrington decided on one of two options being discussed between his agents and the club. It called for him to become a free agent and provide the Redskins with a measure of salary cap relief.

"It's a fresh start," said Gibbs. "LaVar can go anywhere he wants to go. We appreciate him working through this with us."

During his six years as a Redskin, Arrington's style of play could swerve into the undisciplined category on a moment's notice. Still, when the 6-3, 255-pound athlete was on top of his game, it was something to behold.

In 2000, NFL fans saw that for the first time when Arrington put a jarring hit on Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman. Arrington never wanted that image to be a prominent one, actually. He never wanted to be associated with contributing to the end of Aikman's Hall of Fame career.

As a rookie, Arrington started 11 games but really seemed lost in the midst of the NFL game and the NFL culture. Then came three straight Pro Bowl seasons, in which Arrington rivaled Ray Lewis as the game's top linebacker.

Gibbs was asked earlier today about Arrington's legacy as a Redskin and admitted he's not the one to ask, given that he coached the linebacker for two sub-par seasons.

Let the record show that Arrington's most spectacular play came in 2001, when his interception and 67-yard return for a TD sparked an improbable 17-14 win over Carolina in OT.

Let the record show that Arrington, so often a winner at Penn State, has been part of a winning team just once in his NFL career, in 2005.

Let the record show that Arrington's most-frequently issued quote over the years touched on just how much he wanted to be a Redskin and how much he cared about his fans in the Washington, D.C., community.

Those aspects are now part of a resume destined for another NFL city.

Once again, it's impossible to touch on Arrington's six-year career without mentioning that he possesses a star quality that other athletes can only attempt to approximate.

For his sake, you hope that he can regain the form that landed him in the Pro Bowl on three occasions. For the Redskins' sake, you hope to move forward with a lingering issue now resolved.

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