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Arrington leads Redskins in tackles in return to field

WASHINGTON -- Well, well, well, check out who led the
Washington Redskins in tackles Sunday: LaVar Arrington.

That's right, the same LaVar Arrington who didn't play a single
down on defense in the preceding two games. The same LaVar
Arrington who's been involved in an off-field soap opera of "he
said, he said" with head coach Joe Gibbs and assistant Gregg
Williams, involving why the linebacker hasn't been playing and when
he might again.

Playing mostly in long-yardage situations in the first half, but
on the field much more in the second, Arrington was credited with
seven tackles and two assists in Washington's 52-17 victory over
the San Francisco 49ers.

"I was just happy to be out there. I don't care what package, I
don't care how they use me," Arrington said. "The interaction
between me and the coaches has gotten a little better. I felt there
was a different type of vibe between us, which was kind of good. It
took some tension out of the air."

He played often as a rushing end and also dropped into coverage.
Coincidence or not, the 49ers often ran plays away from Arrington,
sometimes rolling out quarterback Alex Smith.

"He responded. He looked like he made plays," Gibbs said.
"That was good for us and it was good for him."

In the first quarter, Arrington tracked Smith down from behind
near the sideline. Linebacker Chris Clemons greeted Arrington with
a leaping hug, as though to say, "Glad to have you back!"

Arrington stopped running back Kevan Barlow for a 4-yard loss on
the final play of the first half and pulled down wideout Rasheed Marshall for a 7-yard loss on a reverse. He collected high-fives
and back slaps from teammates and was his usually animated self,
waving to the crowd to ask for louder cheering and bouncing around
before plays.

"I felt a whole lot of stuff. I'm overwhelmed in this
experience," Arrington said. "I'm happy the coaching staff gave
me the opportunity to go out there and help. I just want to be a
part, and it feels good."

He was relegated to spot duty in Washington's first three games,
then didn't enter on defense at all the next two. The team offered
all sorts of partial explanations, from Arrington's slow recovery
from knee surgery to problems in practice to his hit-or-miss
playing style.

Arrington said he wasn't told exactly why he wasn't playing;
Gibbs said he's spoken to Arrington "more than any other player
I've ever coached in 30 years, probably three times more."

This week, Williams gave the strongest indication to date that
Arrington was close to getting back on the field, saying: "We
really think he's taken some strides physically, not only from the
schematic standpoint, but physically. It looks like his legs are
back."

Whatever was keeping Arrington out, his teammates were pleased
to see him back.

"I've been encouraging LaVar the whole time because I know what
he can do. He had an outstanding game and I'm proud of him,"
offensive lineman Chris Samuels said. "It's just a boost for all
of us. It's another force other teams have to focus on."