Could Albert’s days in the Nation’s Capital be numbered?
Special contribution complimentary of Redskins Gab columnist Keely Diven:
Albert Haynesworth was missing-in-action on Sunday night, despite having returned to practice after his half-brother’s tragic death called him away the previous weekend. So, where was he? Watching the game unfold from a suite far above the action. Hmm. Wouldn’t it make sense to put the Redskins’ most disruptive defensive lineman up against Payton Manning and the Colt’s offensive line? Yes, in my mind, it would. Wouldn’t Haynesworth’s seven years with Indy’s division rival the Titans give him advantageous familiarity with the Colts? Yes, in my mind, it would. So, why then, was #92 held out of the game? Was it injury or continued attitude problems?
Not according to Haynesworth. When he arrived at FedEx, he told NBC Sports’ Andrea Kremer that he would have “loved to play” and could have helped the team with his understanding of the Colts’ offense. Haynesworth said he knows Manning’s snap count and audibles and claimed to know Indy better than his coaches in Washington do. After his return, however, he wasn’t used in any game plans and expected to sit out Sunday. Albert told Kremer that he doesn’t fit the Redskins defensive scheme and could still be moved by Tuesday’s trade deadline, but insisted he could have contributed on Sunday.
Judging from comments made after the game, his fellow Redskins agreed.
On 106.7 The Fan Monday morning, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told Mike Wise that Haynesworth wanted to play Sunday. Alexander said “Albert, he’s a dominant force. We all know what Albert can do. I wish he could have played, I don’t know all the circumstances behind why he didn’t, but for a guy like that, that’s that dominant when he wants to be, we need him out there.” Alexander also spoke with CSN’s Kelli Johnson, saying “Big Al has come a long way, he’s buying in, he’s doing all the right things. We definitely want him out there to be able to play. He’s a monster; in the Philly game he really balled. He’s a game changer, and he keeps offensive linemen off-balance.”
Cornerback Philip Buchanon appeared on CSN’s post-game show and said “We definitely could have used him tonight. Unfortunately, that was a coach’s decision as far as I know. I know that he was definitely eager to play. He really, really wanted to play.” Clearly Haynesworth and his Washington teammates agree that he was healthy, eager to play, and could have helped the Redskins defense against the Colts offensive arsenal. Except that he didn’t play, so he couldn’t help, and the Redskins lost.
The coaches must have had a compelling reason to keep #92 out of the game. The best explanation I could find came from Mike Shanahan’s Monday interview with Kelli Johnson. He told Johnson that Haynesworth wasn’t mentally ready to participate in full practice on Thursday, meaning he effectively missed an entire week of conditioning. He said “Albert’s like all players that have played: if you’re not 100 percent really into it, especially missing one week of workouts, it’s very hard to play at a high level, and you’re probably gonna get hurt.” I take the coach’s comments to mean that he believes Haynesworth isn’t “100 percent really into” playing Redskins football, not that he was especially concerned that Haynesworth wasn’t physically prepared to take the field.
For Mike Shanahan, total commitment to the team matters just as much, if not more, than physical talent. His standard of commitment is extraordinarily high as we saw with the release of Devin Thomas. As the new leader of the Redskins football team, Shanahan has no intention of rewarding players who fail to meet those standards. I have no qualms with Coach Shanahan insisting that his players put the team before themselves and invest their hearts and souls in playing high-level professional football. Any good coach would require those things of his team. I do, however, have issues with Shanahan and company’s handling of what has become the epic Albert Haynesworth saga, not only because the conflict has persisted unchanged since the offseason, but also because the franchise has aggravated the situation.
Albert began voicing his displeasure when the Redskins declared their switch from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 defense. At that point before the season, Shanahan knew all of the facts we know now. Albert Haynesworth has tremendous talent as a defensive lineman. The Redskins signed him for $100 million, $41 million guaranteed, and paid him a $21 million bonus in April (which he took, but later revealed he waited to cash). We paid big money for Big Al, whether Shanahan thinks acquiring him was a smart decision or not, and things have to be very bad to walk away from money like that. Based on salaries alone, the Redskins have a bigger investment in Haynesworth than in Coach Shanahan. That financial fact remains the same.
Shanahan also knew Albert could and would be a disciplinary nightmare and #92 didn’t disappoint. He refused to participate in the team’s offseason work-out program and reported for training camp so out of shape that he failed the conditioning test. Shanahan held Haynesworth out of camp until he could pass, which became more a test of wills than a test of conditioning. Rampant speculation about trading the disgruntled player before the season was put to rest when the Redskins found they could not get the second round draft pick they desired in return for him.
Since the season began, Haynesworth has made more inflammatory comments, including vowing to skip offseason workouts again next summer, and has appeared in only 3 of 6 games. In recent weeks, however, Albert settled down and cooperated with the team’s wishes. He made an impact in the Redskins win over the Eagles and earned praise from his coaches and teammates. The sudden death of his half-brother called him away from the area for week 5 and he didn’t return until last Thursday, which seems to have rubbed Mike Shanahan the wrong way.
By Sunday, the team found itself back at square one with Haynesworth – in the same circumstances that caused problems before the season began – and facing a rapidly approaching trade deadline. Shanahan had a decision to make, either lower the asking price and get him out of Washington for good or keep him and let him play. Those were the only acceptable options for the franchise and its fans, but neither happened. Haynesworth didn’t play, but he also wasn’t traded on Tuesday. Even more outrageous were Titan’s head Coach Fisher’s revelations following the trade deadline. He told The Tenessean that the Titans wanted to trade for Haynesworth, but that “Clearly, Albert’s situation has settled down there in Washington. He is under contract, and there was no interest in them as far as moving him is concerned.”
Settled down? The only situation the Redskins have settled into is a battle of wills between a hard-nosed coach and an overpaid man-child. And everyone, Coach Shanahan, Haynesworth, the Redskins franchise, and the fans, are paying for it. Now the team is committed to Big Al for the remainder of the season, whether he’s committed to the team or not. It is Shanahan’s responsibility, not Haynesworth’s, to work out player conflicts so that the best possible team takes the field every Sunday. I’m discouraged that we are almost 7 weeks into the season without any resolution. Haynesworth is still a $100 million bench warmer, and Mike Shanahan is partly to blame.