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Clinton Portis's injury and a vivid memory of the moment I knew my career was over

My first memory that came to mind after I heard the news that Clinton Portis had a third-degree groin tear was of my last play as a professional. I'm not sure every player has a clear-cut moment of when he knows his career is over, but I did, and I will share it with you.

I was playing for the New York Giants, and we were playing the Cowboys in Dallas on a Monday night. I recall having one of the best games of my career. I had tackles for loses, pass break-ups, a sack and a safety -- the first safety of my entire career.

I guess it was a nice parting gift, because all in a moment's time it was over.

I believe it was the very next series, on a routine play. I heard a loud pop in my leg that just sounded horrible. I liken it to a tire blowing. At first I thought I had been hit from behind by a low-down, dirty Cowboy, but then the reality set in and I realized that it wasn't a cheap shot. It was a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

I can still vividly remember that moment -- the sounds, the smell. I remember it all. I looked around and everything got quiet. And I can remember saying in my head, "Wow, Var, this is it."

I knew that would be the last time I would set foot on an NFL field as an active player.

I can recall just being really disappointed. The noise flooded back in. Trainers were asking me all kinds of questions, and before I knew it I was being carted off the field. No hero's exit, no last play of the game as time ticked off the clock, not even a thank you speech to the fans. No, just a medical cart driving me into the locker room one last time.

When we arrived back at Giants Stadium, I can recall seeing Trishia, my wife, running up to the buses waiting for me to get off. As I came off the bus on crutches, I could tell she had been crying. But she knew she needed to be strong for us both. So with a straight face she asked me if I was okay? I told her yes, it hurts, but I'm fine.

The very next thing she said to me was, We're finished right? I looked in her eyes and I said yes, it's time to move on. And that was it. I never played another down in the NFL.

I'm hoping Clinton recovers and plays more football. But I will say this: The worst thing that can happen to a football player is when they start to feel the pain, "THE REAL PAIN."

By LaVar Arrington  | October 6, 2010; 7:30 PM ET
 
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Comments

I still don't get why this was the end. Tons of players have had ruptured achilles tendons and come back. He was only 28! Heck, London Fletcher is three years older than LA and he's still going strong. Vinny Testaverde played eight seasons after tearing his achilles! Yes, he played QB, but last I checked, you can't play QB on one leg.

It's been four years, Lavar. Surely your achilles injury has healed by now. Come on, man. Give us one last run. The 3-4 was made for you! What better way to mend fences with Snyder and the Skins than by playing one last season as a reserve pass-rusher (next season, of course...). You could then retire for good in the jersey you belong in; burgundy and gold! Make it happen, LA.

Posted by: rucks35 | October 6, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Excellent write up

Posted by: mazbar | October 6, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Aikman can remember his moment. a once in a generation athlete, thanks for the memories 56

Posted by: Black706 | October 6, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Var, agree with rucks35. We all want to see you back in a skins uniform on the field!

Posted by: suppo57 | October 6, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

OMG CAN YOU AMAGINE TAYLOR #21 [REP] LAVAR @ LANDRY ON OUR DEFENCE TO SCARY.

Posted by: ltpeach2 | October 6, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing LaVar.

Posted by: msveasey | October 6, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing. We never realize the full implications of emotions when a player goes down like that.

Posted by: HogsHaven | October 6, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm still waiting for a good explanation of why Warrick freakin Holdman (or whoever that stiff was) was starting ahead of Lavar the last year with the Skins. It's always politics and grudges with the Skins, it's never just about winning football.

Posted by: trezmartin | October 7, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

If I remember right, Lavar had a car/bike accident that really crushed any chances of returning to the football field. He had a blown knee, and god knows how many else injuries.

Posted by: arbano1 | October 7, 2010 2:24 AM | Report abuse

COME ON BACK LAVAR! Lord knows you can wreak some havoc back there. And I KNOW there's a little part of you that would like to knock ONE MORE Cowboys quarterback out...and Tony is PERFECT

Posted by: 47mccoy | October 7, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

I still don't get why this was the end. Tons of players have had ruptured achilles tendons and come back. He was only 28! Heck, London Fletcher is three years older than LA and he's still going strong. Vinny Testaverde played eight seasons after tearing his achilles! Yes, he played QB, but last I checked, you can't play QB on one leg.

It's been four years, Lavar. Surely your achilles injury has healed by now. Come on, man. Give us one last run. The 3-4 was made for you! What better way to mend fences with Snyder and the Skins than by playing one last season as a reserve pass-rusher (next season, of course...). You could then retire for good in the jersey you belong in; burgundy and gold! Make it happen, LA.

Posted by: rucks35 | October 6, 2010 8:28 PM |
***************************
rucks35.......i had a ruptured achilles and yes some are able to come back, BUT it depends on the severity of the rupture. most of the time you will hear them say an achilles "TEAR"
i had my surgery last year and the specialist stated that this was a very bad rupture and i will be able to walk and run, but not to the point i once did.
so reading LaVar comments, i can attest to what he is saying.
some can come back.......others like Lavar are done.

Shy

Posted by: shy_washington | October 7, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

You guys calling for LaVar to come back are nuts. The injury on the field + the injury on the bike = retirement.

I would have loved for him to stay a skin and still be running in the back field but you have to accept your fate.

Posted by: alex35332 | October 7, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Every now and then, a fan gets lucky enough to watch a player like Lavar Arrington, or Sean Taylor, running onto the field with the rest of the D. Those are the times I edge forward on my couch, and I find myself smiling at what's to come. In fact, I found those times even better than watching the offense take the field, because it's more fun watching the certain destruction of the other team.
Thanks for all the great play, Mr. Arrington. It was a blast.

Posted by: pooftah2 | October 7, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing Lavar. It has to be a sad moment when you know the mind is willing, but the body isn't able. You will always be a lifelong Redskin. Look at how you represented with the Sports bar dressed in redskins colors and all the work you do now in the media for the Skins. Our organization left a sour taste in your mouth, but the fans were true and you reconized that and made this area your home. We love U for that. but, as a side note like someone said before that motorcycle accident didn't help either. I believe that had more to do with your comeback attempt but I may be wrong.

Posted by: Hackersk | October 7, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The fact is LaVar could have been a million times better player had he any concept of what it was like to play within a team concept. The talent was there-no question about it. From the sound of some of these posts it seems like LaVar might be getting it now but its too late to go back.

Posted by: sjp879 | October 7, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Lavar was a great player but he could not play into the scheme that was put in place. Thats why he played only 2 snaps in that game. He was not a team player .

Other then that he was a great player who moved on and played well for other coaches . The coaching here at the time had a hard on for La.From what I was told Willaims tried to have a measuring contest to see if he was man enough and willaims lost by inches....!

Posted by: terryreece | October 7, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Good article LaVar! It provided a image of what athletes go through. I'm enjoying seeing you develop in your new career. The sky is the limit my brother! Perhaps you can rejoin the Skins in another capacity to help us move closer to being a Champsionship Organization. Dan....are you paying attention.....here's our official Redskins Ambassador! Be well.

Posted by: StanRay1 | October 7, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Var,

You prove time and again that you are more than capable as a writer, providing unparalleled insight. I am very impressed, and I hope the WaPost sees the quality of your contributions.

Looking forward to you continuing to write.

Posted by: whughes1 | October 7, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing LaVar. You gave us some great years as a Redskin and you were sorely missed.

Posted by: carbon916 | October 7, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I always try to forget that you played for the Gaints. YUCK!

Posted by: parkerbros | October 7, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

For all you know nothings out there....it's pretty obvious that Lavar has always taken the high road by not out right calling Dale Lindsey a major d!(k-head who got free reign to punish one of the best players we ever had simply because that clown of a linebackers coach was "double G" Williams buddy.

Lavar....I saw your last play, and it hurt to watch because I had a feeling that was it too. You've shown a lot of grace in how you handle some of the haters who regularly chime in with their uneducated opinions.

Posted by: yampaco | October 7, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Lavar, here is the message that I sent to Ted:

Hey Ted,
First of all I want to thank you for taking time out for the fans! I am a 28 year old native Washingtonian and I’ve been a Bullets/Wizards fan for my entire life!! They are right up there with the Redskins and the Caps!! If I do not catch every single game of the season that makes for a very gloomy period!! I have recently moved to Florida and I have to purchase the NHL/NBA/NFL tickets respectively. Being a Bullets fan I’ve seen the lows and have been there for the highs when it comes to the franchise( More lows than highs) and through that period my loyalty has never left my hometown clubs. I was elated when Grunfield was able to bring in Agent Zero and I remain one of his biggest fans!! I think that he has a lot of basketball left in him and I expect him to use the slights of others as motivation to excel beyond expectations. My only problem is that I see the direction that MY team is going and for once I can feel, taste, and smell the potential. Yes, all of my senses are at full go!! John Wall is a tremendous talent and Blatche continues to make great strides! I cannot say enough good about the development of Javale. The only killjoy is Arenas. With his give up attitude/suicidal tendencies I do not know how or why he would make it to the halfway point of the season in a Bullets uniform. The post preseason game remarks were alarming and very disappointing. Where he basically implied that his time in Washington is over is very premature and immature, might I add. The fact that the franchise is trying to proceed in a positive light and he comes along with his “ I’m not gonna smile(Grrrrr)” attitude and when he referred to the Bullets as “ their team” as if he is not a part of the team is unthinkable. I know that due to the size of Gils contract and the number of years left on said contract it is virtually impossible to deal him, but some Grunfield magic must be worked prior to him tainting the locker room that is full of our promising young players. One thing you must consider prior to a deal is that YOU DO NOT WANT TO DEAL HIM IN OUR DIVISION OR CONFERENCE because he will do his best to make the Bullets pay!! I truly believe that. Send him to the western conference!

Posted by: sirmixx01 | October 7, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I can't imagine the feeling of knowing something you prepared basically your whole life for is basically ending. Got to be somewhat empty and surreal at the same time. I feel for guys when they go through that moment.

I still remember Alonzo Mourning's last game when he hurt his knee... I think everyone who followed the NBA knew that was it for him including Zo and he refused to leave the court on a stretcher as he didn't want his last memory to be of him being carted off the court. Tough way to go out and I gained even more respect for the way he did. Not everyone has that option, but that memory is cemented in my mind. He is still one of my favorite all time sports figures.

Posted by: HollywoodPlayboy | October 7, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Great blog Var. I went to Penn State, got there the year after you left, but followed your career closely and was thrilled when you became a Skin. Thanks for everything you have done for the fans in the community!

Posted by: SkinsSUPERBOWL | October 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

LA's career was over before it started. It wasnt his achillies that ended him, it was his heart. Now he sits on a cloud of judgement handing down life lessons to the peons that tune in.

Posted by: wynnebs | October 7, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Watching LaVar making great tackles was a thrill for me when he wore burgundy and gold. However, an even bigger thrill for me was boldly walking up to him at the Verizon Center after a Wizards game and speaking to him. He was with friends and it would have been understandable if he had merely nodded or smiled in response. Instead, he stood up, shook my hand, and thanked me for my kind words. He will always be a Redskin hero to me.

Posted by: juliagraffam | October 7, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

...that motorcycle accident didn't help either....

folks, pls remember bikers when yr driving

Posted by: mloaks | October 7, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I thought the end of Lavar's career had as much to do with the bike accident as it did the Achilles injury. Great post though. What came to mind for me was when he (Lavar) picked off that pass against Carolina in 2001 and took it to the house, and in the process woke up a sleep walking Redskins team. From there Marty got us to 8-8, but as we all know, that wasn't good enough for ownership, which instead fired Marty and wasted a bunch of money on Spurrier. Lavar, I wish you could come back, and I'm sure if you could, you would. In my mind you are a true Redskin and I remember being pained by seeing you and Antonio Pierce playing for New York. Ignore the haters: your career wasn't over before it started. Rather, it was to some degree screwed up by bad luck, bad coaching and an owner I wish we could trade to another team.

Posted by: orangeskin | October 7, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The motorcycle accident ended any chances of a comeback. I am just glad he has a gig.

Posted by: ged0386 | October 7, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

That plus the bike accident plus no longer feeling like being a 'warrior' means he's done for ever.

Pretty good insight as to what a guy goes thru when that time comes.

Posted by: kahlua87 | October 7, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

"it's pretty obvious that Lavar has always taken the high road by not out right calling Dale Lindsey"

Don't get me started on Dale Lindsey and how his coaching career had already "jumped the shark" by the time he had his problems with LaVar. He went on to fail miserably as a D-Coordinator and sadly last I heard some college kids somewhere are stuck dealing with his antics, now.

I always remember the story that one of the Fox analysts once told about Lindsey focusing so much psychological warfare on an unnamed rookie (who would later make the Pro Bowl for another team) that the kid just brokedown one day.

Posted by: SportzWiz | October 7, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Lot o jerks on here calling LA out.

Thats not cool.

Posted by: alex35332 | October 7, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Lot o jerks on here calling LA out.

Thats not cool.

Posted by: alex35332 | October 7, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Man thats some great writing Lavar! You went down as a warrior on the field and you have been resurrected as a talented writer! I never used to notice but a few years ago I really started to realize that to even play in the nfl at all and to make a career out of it is a huge achievement for any player. Guys go down with injuries constantly and you never hear from them again. Lavar was one of most exciting players I've ever watched and you could tell he poured his heart into ever game! I was at a game at fedex sitting in the dream seats right at field level and I remember Lavar running from the far sideline to the sideline we were sitting at. I couldn't believe how fast he was coming and the level of violence he unleashed on the running back once he got to the point of attack....I remember thinking "how the hell can anbody even survive that punishment, it was like a car crash and it was only one play"....

Posted by: jacksonalex | October 7, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Lavar, you don't have to stay retired. You could always work with the current "Skins" linebackers and share your wealth of experience, of course, within the current defensive schemes and concepts. Your contributions would surely demonstrate you are not only a team-player, but still a Redskin and always will be. Love your column. Go "Skins"!!!

Posted by: mtnine53 | October 8, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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