Losing takes fun out of Armstead's big year

With Redskins out of hunt for playoffs, linebacker downplays his efforts

Pro Football

December 19, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Jessie Armstead should be happier.

The Washington Redskins linebacker is putting the finishing touches on one of his best seasons since he entered the NFL in 1993.

Armstead is fourth on the team in tackles with 88 and is tied with fellow linebacker LaVar Arrington for the team lead in tackles for a loss with three.

And at 33, Armstead has registered a team-high 6.5 sacks - 1.5 more than Arrington and 2.5 more than NFL career sack leader Bruce Smith.

Yet, the Redskins are 5-9 and will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year. And the defense is practically guaranteed of its first non-top 10 ranking since 1999.

That's why Armstead hasn't been smiling too much around Redskins Park.

"If you don't win, it puts a damper on anything you may have done individually," he said. "I'm not too worried about personal goals. The stats speak for themselves. But when you're not in the playoffs, it puts a damper on everything."

That disappointment has become a familiar feeling for Armstead, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker lacking a Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts.

His closest brush with a world championship came in the 2000 season as a member of the New York Giants, but they were pummeled, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV by the Ravens.

New York released Armstead after the 2001 season, and Washington promptly signed him to a three-year, $4.5 million free-agent contract on March 1, 2002.

In his first year with the Redskins, Armstead finished tied with Arrington for the team lead in tackles with 107. The duo shared the team lead in tackles for a loss with seven each, and Armstead also compiled three sacks.

Armstead has doubled last year's sack total despite not being an integral part of defensive coordinator George Edwards' blitz packages.

On passing downs, Armstead is generally assigned to mark the back coming out of the backfield. Armstead has the experience and instincts to wait until the back doesn't pose a threat as a receiver and then rush the quarterback.

"Jessie is a tough competitor and gets done what he needs to get done," Edwards said. "He's experienced, he's smart."

Armstead said he has no regrets about taking less money to play for the Redskins, but with his contract ending after next season, he acknowledges that winning a Super Bowl before his career runs out is his greatest motivation.

"My window of opportunity is getting closed," Armstead said. "I came here for a Super Bowl ring. I know that this year, I won't be able to compete for it, and that's the only thing I'm upset about."

Next for Redskins

Matchup: Washington Redskins (5-9) vs. Chicago Bears (6-8)

Site: Soldier Field, Chicago

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line: Bears by 4 1/2

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