ASHBURN, Va. - Unlike many of his other fellow big-name newcomers, Washington Redskins rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington figures to play a great deal in tonight's first preseason game at Tampa at 7:30.
The other guys, who on paper make this Redskins team better than the one that walked off the field of Raymond James Stadium in a 14-13 January playoff loss to the Bucs, figure not to see as much time tonight.
Free-agent acquisitions Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith may not play at all, and backup quarterback Jeff George probably will play less than a quarter. The Redskins' other first-round pick, Chris Samuels, will work the first quarter, starting at left tackle.
But Arrington could play much of the second and the third quarters, which would give him a chance to make his first statement as to why he should be starting.
Arrington, at 6 feet 3 and 250 pounds, is starting to feel some of the pressure of becoming what many think will be the second coming of former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Some thought he would already be working with the first team by now, but after a weeklong holdout and a missed minicamp, Arrington still finds himself behind Greg Jones at strong-side linebacker.
That's led some to believe that he is not performing well on the practice field.
"People I think get a misconception on how I'm doing out here," Arrington said after Wednesday's practice. "I don't think I'm doing too bad. I think people are saying, `LaVar is so far behind, and he is not doing this and he's not doing that.' But I see myself taking away at least one positive thing that I've done per day. As long as I'm improving that way, I don't have a problem with that."
Arrington said that ever since he heard his name called as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, people have been wanting to anoint him the starter over Jones.
An assumption like that, according to Arrington, is not fair to him or Jones.
Things have not always been smooth these first few weeks for Arrington, but the linebacker does seem to be getting more comfortable after every practice.
In Arrington's defense, he is playing over the tight end, something he did not have to do at Penn State. The Redskins' coaches are also asking him to rush the passer on third down.
"I've had stories that were written about me that were either good, or they were bad," Arrington said. "I've never really had anybody write in the middle about me. It is something I'm used to. I do what I have to do, regardless of what people say or write about me."
A couple of sacks and bone-crunching hits on running backs tonight and Arrington can bet that the things written about him will be good.
Arrington seems to believe that could happen.
"I really want to show out," Arrington said. "I got the feeling that I will. But we are just going to have to wait and see."
His roster spot is assured though, which is more than can be said for a vast majority of players that will be in during the second half of the game.
Guys like fifth-round pick Quincy Sanders out of Nevada-Las Vegas and rookie free-agent cornerback LaFann Williams have been impressive in practice but know they need to transfer it to a game atmosphere.
"You want to make the roster, so you have to do anything possible to be on that 53-man roster," Sanders said.
With the turnover on the coaching staff, Norv Turner said he wants to use tonight's game as a rehearsal for the new staff.
"I think you want to see where you are in terms of game-day communication," Turner said. "The game-day communication will be the same throughout the game, no matter who is in. We have some new coaches. We rehearsed it for a few plays in the Baltimore scrimmage, but the games are totally different. It will be good for us."
NOTES: Running back Stephen Davis will not play in tonight's game. ... Cornerback Tyronne Drakeford (hamstring) and defensive end Marco Coleman (bruised muscle) are gametime decisions.