Haynesworth still has a soft spot for Tennessee

There are times Albert Haynesworth wishes he were still playing

for the Tennessee Titans.

There were times last year he felt like he was being used as a

”showpiece” by the Washington Redskins.

He says the big misperceptions about him are that he doesn’t

care about his team and that he no longer tries hard because he got

his big payday.

And that embarrassing play Monday night when he stayed on the

ground and didn’t get up while Michael Vick was scrambling around?

The play that’s been viewed endless times on the Internet as an

example of Haynesworth’s off-and-on effort? A play that pretty much

summed up the Redskins’ night in a 59-28 loss to the Philadelphia

Eagles?

Apparently Big Al had a cramp. Or thought the play was over. Or

both.

”I had, like, a charlie horse in my thigh or whatever,”

Haynesworth said. ”I thought I heard the whistle, so I kind of

like stayed there for a second and gathered myself, and I looked up

and … he’s still got the ball. I looked and he throws the ball

for a touchdown.”

Haynesworth, who rarely speaks at length to the media, ruminated

Wednesday about the good days with his old team and the challenging

days with his new one as he prepares for his return trip to

Tennessee with the Redskins on Sunday.

”Do they wish they still had me? Yeah,” Haynesworth said.

”Sometimes I wish I was still back there – because I felt like I

could still be dominant.”

Haynesworth left the Titans after seven seasons to sign a $100

million free agent deal with the Redskins last year. He was perhaps

the most dominant defensive lineman in the NFL during his last two

years in Tennessee, but there were nagging questions whether he was

a full-go player every down he was on the field – and whether he

had stepped up his game in Tennessee just to get a big contract.

Washington threw so much money at him that there was no chance of

staying where he was.

”Look at the history,” Haynesworth said. ”Jevon Kearse, Kevin

Carter, all these guys, they never really paid any defensive

linemen. No guy ever really finished there. I knew it was going to

happen, and all I wanted to do was just go somewhere else and be

appreciated and get to play the way I did.”

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said the Titans were interested in

re-signing Haynesworth.

”He had his best year of his career,” Fisher said, ”and we

just didn’t get an opportunity.”

Haynesworth’s goal of being appreciated got off to a bad start

in Washington. He was a disappointment last year for a 4-12 team

under coach Jim Zorn, and he’s had a rocky relationship this year

with new coach Mike Shanahan. There were differences over offseason

workouts, conditioning tests and preseason playing time, but the

crux of the issue was that Haynesworth didn’t want to play nose

tackle in a 3-4 defense.

In recent weeks, the Redskins have given up trying. Haynesworth

doesn’t play in the team’s base package anymore and enters the game

with the nickel unit, usually as a pass-rushing defensive end.

”I’m starting to feel appreciated,” he said. ”At first, last

year, not really. I felt like I (was) just kind of like a showpiece

to take up blocks and help the teammates, which, of course, I want,

but as my teammates are playing good, I want to play good, too. I

want to be able to get sacks and stuff, and that’s one thing (I

did) at Tennessee.”

Eleven of Haynesworth’s 19 tackles this season and both of his

sacks have come in the last three games.

”Now I’m getting back to it. It’s still a different role, but

it’s more similar to what I did in Tennessee,” he said. ”I had to

get used to coming off the bench and playing less plays and stuff

like that, but it’s really helped me out a lot as far as keeping me

healthy and being more productive.”

Haynesworth said people get a few things wrong when they think

about him.

”People probably don’t think that I care about the Washington

Redskins,” he said. ”That’s not true. I have a lot of great

friends on this team, and I think we do a lot of things great

together. As far as thinking that just because I got paid that I’m

not going to play, that’s not true either. I’ve always said if you

just put me in the right situation, then I’ll be prosperous.”

Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who played with Haynesworth

for three seasons, says he’s been surprised by his former

teammate’s difficulties in Washington.

”That’s not what I see in Al,” Tulloch said. ”I know who he

is as a person and what he’s about. It’s mind-boggling in a sense.

… We all had good vibes with Albert. We never had a problem with

him.”

Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels says Haynesworth is a

teammate who laughs a lot but is very private. Haynesworth counts

Daniels as one of his best friends on the team, but Daniels says he

knows little about Haynesworth’s life outside of football.

”The eyes are on him so much that he don’t have room to

breathe,” Daniels said.

Haynesworth dealt with a personal tragedy last month when his

half-brother died in a motorcycle accident in Nashville, only a few

miles from the stadium where the Redskins will play Sunday.

Haynesworth has a house in Knoxville and a condo in Nashville and

considers Tennessee his home.

But his team is now the visiting Redskins, which means a chance

to send a message.

”Just to go out there and get a victory,” Haynesworth said.

”And show ’em that they miss me.”

”Hopefully, he handles it well and has one of his best games,”

Shanahan said. ”Anytime you go back to where you started, (where)

people gave you your first chance and for whatever reasons why it

didn’t work out there, I’m sure he wants to go back and play his

best game of the season. I know I would if I was in his

shoes.”

As for the long term, Haynesworth says he’ll keep coming off the

bench if that’s what the Redskins want.

”I’m under contract for another five years, so if they keep me

five years doing the same thing, I’m happy with it,” he said.

”But if they want to change it, they change it.”