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There's a certain danger in examining the words of a 26 year old man who wears his emotions on his sleeve. It's especially dangerous when that player has just had knee surgery for the second time in seven months. But as the whole thing has created quite an uproar so let's parse some of his statements as quoted in the Washington Post:
Why is it that nobody is really speaking about how hard and the sacrifices I put forth to try to get back out there? They're so quick to talk about what we do wrong.The first part is just silly. Is Joe Gibbs supposed to call a press conference to praise Arrington to do what he gets paid millions to do, spend the offseason getting prepared to play in the fall? And the second part is just wrong, at least in public. This coaching staff does not criticize the players to the press.
To me it kind of [stinks]; it [stinks], because it's not like I have a relationship built with [the coaches] anyway, because they're new and then I get hurt and every year it's always someone new [as a head coach]. This sounds almost hysterical. First of all, maybe there would not have been so many new coaches had Arrington done what previous coaches had asked him to do. Arrington wouldn't play within the defensive scheme as Kurt Schottenheimer wanted him to do and he gave a lot of resistance to playing from a three-point stance as Marvin Lewis wanted him to do. Actions such as that help keep the coaching revolving door turning.
On top of that, wasn't Arrington one of the players who didn't return phone calls to Gibbs when the coach was rehired back in January of '04? Certainly, his enthusiasm for the return of the legendary coach was very limited. Last time I checked it takes two to build a relationship.
Does that mean it's right the way it's being handled? . . . It makes you wonder, man, what's their agenda?Their agenda is to win football games, not to coddle players and massage their egos.
When asked if he'd discussed his feelings about the situation with Gibbs, Arrington said:
I don't really care, to be honest. I just care about getting healthy and trying to be able to play. I don't really care what anybody thinks at this pointIn other words, no, I'm blasting away with both barrels publicly without talking to the coach first.
I'm taking as much time as I need, and if that means they're upset and want to get rid of me, then so be it. But I'm not coming back before my knee is better. I tried it their way, and it got me on crutches again. Now I'm going to try it the way that Dr. Andrews and the rest of the medical staff want me to do, and that's the bottom line.
Now this is a pretty serious charge here. Arrington is saying that the Redskins forced him to do things against the advice of his doctor and that they would get rid of him if he didn't go along. It would naive to think that such things don't happen, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Here are Arrington's own words from Redskins.com on December 8:
I felt pretty good out there," he said. "I still have to get a little more comfortable out there. I fee relatively new right now, as funny as that may sound. . .Guys are still fighting and continuing to get things done--I want to be a part of it. I don't want sit back and watch when I'm healthy. So if I'm healthy and I'm not on Injured Reserve, I'd like an opportunity to go out there and play. That's the way I feel.So, that's the way he felt then. Yesterday, it was this:
I worked my [butt] off to get back on the field and for what? Three [late-season] games? There wasn't no playoffs on the line. There wasn't no Super Bowls, and I still worked my [butt] off to play in those three games.
If Arrington is waiting for a brass band to lead the ticker tape parade to celebrate him busting his [butt] so that he can perform the job he gets paid millions of dollars to do, he will be sorely disappointed.
For his part, Gibbs said the following:
Being the guy he is and the competitor he is, he wanted to play, But I told him, long-term, what's important to us is you, your health. Not just you as a player, but as a person.
Certainly, Gibbs is putting the best face on this from the team's point of view. If the NFL was truly concerned about the long-term health of its players it probably would have to shut down entirely as virtually nobody who plays for any length of time escapes without some degree of long-term damage to his body. Still, at least as far as last December is concerned, it does appear that Arrington was feeling well and quite eager to take the field.
Lost in the "he said, he said" exchange between Gibbs and Arrington is the important aspect of the story, the fact that Arrington had the surgery. Unanswered here is a key question: was the procedure necessary because he played in December or because he pushed himself too hard trying to rehab in time for minicamp or was it because there was some stuff in there that wasn't found in the initial operation? This is the information that really matters, but we don't get that.
There is danger in making too much out of this. In the halls of Redskins Park, a couple of reporters happen upon Arrington, who is on crutches and feeling very down. In answer to a question like "How's it going, LaVar?", the reporters get a notebook full.
This doesn't mean, however, that all is well at Redskins Park. There certainly is some hangover from the only constant being change in coaches, staff, and players. The long-term effects of that chaos might take a lot longer to work their way out than many of us thought.