The New England Patriots began a busy business day on Thursday by acquiring troubled, yet ultra-talented, defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth from the Washington Redskins for a fifth-round draft pick in 2013. The move is considered by many to be a low-risk, high-reward gamble for a player who only three years ago was considered the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL.
Haynesworth’s acquisition has drawn comparisons to the plight of Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. Dillon and Moss were also considered notorious malcontents prior to their arrival in New England. Head coach Bill Belichick garnered praise for getting their careers turned around. He hopes to do the same with Haynesworth. This, however, will prove to be Belichick’s biggest challenge to date.
Ron Borges in the Boston Herald, not surprisingly, writes a scathingly critical article of the Patriots’ deal outlining many of Haynesworth’s on and off the field transgressions. While Haynesworth has made two Pro Bowls in his career, he is perhaps best remembered as the player who stomped on the exposed head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode in a game on October 1, 2006. Haynesworth’s spikes barely missed Gurode’s right eye, but caused a serious gash on his forehead which would require 30 stitches. The incident resulted in Haynesworth being suspended for five games.
Haynesworth would go on to sign a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins in 2009. Evidently, that was not enough reason to keep Haynesworth motivated.
He constantly clashed with head coach Mike Shanahan. In an interview in September of 2010 with radio station 106.7 The Fan, Haynesworth griped, “I mean, I’m not for sale. Yeah, I signed the contract and get paid a lot of money, but… That don’t mean I’m for sale or a slave or whatever.” The comparisons of a player making $100 million to that of a slave are laughable, if it were not so insulting.
This was in response to the coaching staff complaining about Haynesworth missing a mandatory minicamp, as well as avoiding the team’s off-season conditioning program and practices. The result was Haynesworth being unable to pass the teams conditioning test until the 10th day of training camp.
Haynesworth was also unhappy, despite his $100 million contract, to be playing part of a 3-4 scheme- coincidentally, the same defensive scheme that the Patriots employ. Haynesworth placed a stamp (or, perhaps, stomp) on his ignominious tenure with the Redskins by being suspended by Mike Shanahan for the last four weeks of last season for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Haynesworth’s bad attitude goes beyond the football field. He was involved in a car accident in which he sideswiped another car while allegedly driving 103 mph in his black Ferrari resulting in a victim being partially paralyzed. The incident occurred a mere four days after being given probation for driving 100 mph on that same highway.
Haynesworth also faces trial next month for a misdemeanor sexual assault charge for allegedly fondling a Washington hotel waitress. The trial is scheduled to start on August 2 and could result in a maximum six-month jail sentence, although it is speculated he will get off with just a slap on the wrist.
So say hello to your new member of the New England Patriots. Are you ready to stand up and applaud this guy when he gets introduced for the first time at Gillette Stadium?
There is no doubting Haynesworth’s talent when he is motivated and in shape to play. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound (listed, but likely much more) monster recorded 14.5 sacks in 27 games in his final two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He could supply the much-needed pass rush the Patriots have so desperately been seeking for the last few years. A motivated Haynesworth will command double teams. Lining up alongside Vincent Wilfork will create a mass of humanity along the defensive front which will be difficult for any team to run on. The constant double teams that he and Wilfork would require would provide tackling lanes which would allow inside linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to flourish. It’s scary to think of how many tackles Mayo could end up with.
The question will be, “Can Bill Belichick do what Mike Shanahan could not?” Around these parts, the mantra is,”In Bill, we trust.” I hope Haynesworth proves me wrong and comes in here and becomes a model citizen off the field and reverts to his dominating self on the field. I just have a hard time accepting the belief of many Patriots fans that a Patriots jersey comes complete with a halo and angel wings. Make no mistake about it- I will be ecstatic if the Patriots are standing on the podium at midfield of Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012, holding the Lombardi trophy up high. However, I will be hard-pressed not to cringe if I see Haynesworth, despite wearing a Patriots uniform, press his lips to the trophy.