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AP: Two of a football kind: 'Tasmanian Devil' Arrington and 'Grim Reaper' Taylor

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Old 08-25-2005, 12:56 AM   #1
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AP: Two of a football kind: 'Tasmanian Devil' Arrington and 'Grim Reaper' Taylor

Two of a football kind: 'Tasmanian Devil' Arrington and 'Grim Reaper' Taylor

By JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, August 24, 2005


ASHBURN, Va. - For a moment, it sounded as if Marcus Washington was talking about the Grim Reaper. Instead, he was describing the Tasmanian Devil.

"He's a big play guy," Washington said. "The first day he came in, he caused a turnover in run defense. That's just the type of player he is _ he can change the game in one play. His enthusiasm just spreads through the entire defense."

Washington was answering a question about linebacker LaVar Arrington. When it was suggested that the same words could be applied to another Washington Redskins teammate, safety Sean Taylor, Washington's eyes widened.

"They are," Washington said, "really similar."

In many ways. They are both big but incredibly athletic for their size. They are both hard-hitting intimidators, unafraid to level anything in their paths. Arrington knocked Troy Aikman into retirement by giving the Dallas quarterback a 10th career concussion. Philadelphia receiver Todd Pinkston's skittish move to let a pass drop rather than get hit by Taylor is now a legendary tale in the Redskins locker room. Arrington nicknamed Taylor the "Grim Reaper," and Washington came up with "Tasmanian Devil" for Arrington.

Finally, added Washington, they both walk around with huge chips on their shoulders.

"They hate to lose. They're big-time competitors," Washington said. "They go out with that me-against-the-world attitude."

That includes me-against-the-media. Both have been critical of the press and are inclined not to give interviews. Taylor says it's because he's never asked for his side of the story, while Arrington says the overall coverage of the team should be more positive.

Both have dealt with off-the-field issues that have made team officials unhappy. Taylor's list is a long one _ including a drunken driving charge that was later dismissed _ but the biggest concern is an upcoming trial in Florida for a felony charge involving a firearm. Arrington's plate seems benign by comparison _ he harshly criticized the team for way it handled his knee injury and claims the team cheated him out of $6.5 million in his current contract.

While those episodes are upsetting, coaches and teammates agree on one thing: Both have shown an uncanny knack for leaving their troubles at the door.

"He is a very focused person when he's in this building," assistant coach Gregg Williams said of Taylor. "There were many times last year as a rookie I tried to find ways to find him doing the wrong thing, or saying the wrong thing, or acting the wrong way in this building, but he's pretty much straight-line _ thinks football, plays football, does everything. From a coach's standpoint, you have to love that."

Arrington is similarly described as a coach's favorite and model student of the game. Still, neither player got a free pass entering training camp.

Taylor worked with the backups for some two weeks as punishment for his boycott of the offseason conditioning program. He was so impressive, though, that the inevitable happened quickly and he was a starter again in last week's exhibition game against Cincinnati.

Arrington played little last year because of a knee injury that required two surgeries. He returned to practice last week and is expected to make his preseason debut Friday against Pittsburgh. Even then, the three-time Pro Bowl player will have to earn his playing time.

"He's worked hard behind the scenes to come back," Williams said. "And to be truthful, I've always liked coaching guys that have a chip on their shoulders. Sometimes people say I coach that way."

If there's a football complaint about both players, it's that they are too gung-ho, so anxious to make a big hit that they abandon their assignments _ only to find that the gamble has backfired into a big play for the other team.

That leads to the question of whether either player is a natural fit for a disciplined defense that de-emphasizes stars. Williams dismisses such talk.

"Who does more than we do?" Williams said. "Our style on defense is that you find many good football players and adapt to the guys that we have, and we adapt week to week."

Teammates are eager to see Taylor and Arrington healthy and on the field at the same time, something that rarely happened last year. Although the defense ranked third overall, it was only 22nd in forcing turnovers and scored only one touchdown all season. Taylor and Arrington specialize in such game-changing plays.

"We're definitely going to intimidate a lot of people with a Tasmanian Devil like that on the field," Washington said. "We can be just as good as we were last year _ or even better _ with those two guys out there."

This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servle...s=1045855935241
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