Anyone who has ever been around the Washington Redskins safety has learned that lesson right away. Like the time in his rookie year when he was participating in a practice drill in which five players were racing to reach four orange cones.
"Whoever didn't get a cone was the guy that had to run the extra lap and do some push-ups or whatever," linebacker Chris Wilson said. "So LaRon is running, and it looks like he's going to be the guy who's not going to get a cone, and he just jacks up one of his own teammates, elbows another rookie right in the back, knocks him way past the cone and picks the cone up. I'm like, 'This is crazy.'"
Crazy? Yeah, that has been said about Landry a bunch of times. He's the kid who once used a fake ID so he could start playing football when he was 5. And when an older boy dared him "to jump out of the back of the truck like Superman" on the way home from practice, little LaRon actually did it -- and busted up his teeth. His nickname on the Redskins is "Dirty 30."
So when Landry was selected this week as the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week for the first time, the only surprise was that it took this long for him to shove the competition out of the way. He created both turnovers in the Redskins' 16-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers, and -- depending on whose count you use -- leads the NFL this season in tackles. His diving interception of a pass thrown by Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers set up Washington's game-winning field goal in overtime.
Landry has been a fearsome, athletic presence since he was drafted No. 6 overall in 2007, but the one the barrier he found a challenge to overcome was the fact he has been forced to play out of position at free safety for much of his NFL career. Last season was especially tough as Landry gave up inopportune big-play touchdowns and was dragged down by the entire team's struggles in a 4-12 campaign.
"He was down on himself," fellow safety Kareem Moore said. "He just came in (this year) with a brand new slate, working hard, staying after, watching film and stuff. He just came in a whole new player."
More importantly, Shanahan and new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett installed a 3-4 defense and moved Landry to his natural position of strong safety, putting him in the center of the defense, where he can cause havoc in any and all directions.
"That's what I'm strong at," Landry said Thursday, his 26th birthday, "just to react and just play ball."
When Shanahan took the job and started reviewing the Redskins' roster on video, Landry was among the players who stood out. Therefore, when reports started swirling in the spring that Landry was the subject of trade talks, the coach met with the safety to set the record straight.
"There was some rumors and speculation, and he was kind of upset about it," Shanahan said. "I told LaRon, 'There may be some rumors and speculations, but I guarantee you, you will not be traded.'"
Shanahan's reasoning was simple.
"Speed, tackling ability and the way he played the game," Shanahan said. "From my perspective, I did not want to play against him. That makes it very easy."
Landry is truly one-of-a-kind, from his midnight post-curfew workouts in his hotel room on the nights before games -- accompanied by a room-service meal of steak and fries -- to the white-faced capuchin monkey he keeps as a pet and occasionally brings to Redskins Park.
The choice of diet likely explains the exhortation Landry gives to his teammates when they huddle at the 50-yard line before kickoff on Sundays.
"One-two-three, meat and potatoes!" Moore said. "That guy, he just brings it out in all of us."
Notes: DL Albert Haynesworth rejoined the team Thursday, nearly a full week after his half brother died in a motorcycle accident. Shanahan said it will be a game-time decision whether or not Haynesworth plays Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, based on how the lineman is doing "both physically and mentally." ... LB Rocky McIntosh (concussion) will see a doctor Friday to see if he can receive clearance to resume practicing. ... Rookie LT Trent Williams (left knee) was able to practice and is expected to play. ... For the second time this season, Shanahan decided to hold practice in a hangar at Dulles International Airport because of rain.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press