Haynesworth will be at Redskins camp
For all that Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb have done to start a new era of positive vibes for the Washington Redskins, the offseason boycott of Albert Haynesworth has served as a 350-pound counterweight.
Haynesworth's unhappiness over the switch to a new defense has cast a shadow over the new regime. The saga comes to a head Wednesday, when the defensive lineman with the $100 million contract is required to report for the team's mandatory minicamp.
"He'll be here,'' general manager Bruce Allen said Tuesday, "and we're expecting him to be in good shape.''
Shanahan has tried to downplay Haynesworth's discontent — the coach has said repeatedly that he'd rather talk about the players who are here rather than the players who aren't — but there's been no avoiding it. Fans and Haynesworth's teammates have had the date circled in their minds for weeks, and cornerback DeAngelo Hall echoed everyone's sentiments when he walked off the field after a practice last week and said: "I can't wait. I can't wait.''
"Anybody who's been on this field knows we're building something special,'' said Hall, who has been exchanging text messages with Haynesworth. "You're either going to get on the bandwagon, or you won't be here. ... He'll see what's going on, and we'll tell him what we're trying to do. Hopefully that's enough.''
A year ago, Haynesworth was the crown jewel of another free agent splash by owner Dan Snyder, agreeing to a seven-year contract that included $41 million in guaranteed money. The two-time All-Pro defensive tackle was a letdown: He was frequently injured, finished with only four sacks and questioned the team's leadership as the Redskins spiraled in a 4-12 season.
New leadership has come, but it's apparently not to Haynesworth's taste.
Shanahan made it clear that he wasn't happy about Haynesworth's decision not to participate in the team's voluntary offseason conditioning program. Haynesworth felt he needed to work with his own trainer to regain the strength that made him such a feared player during his seven years with the Tennessee Titans.
If that were all, it wouldn't be a huge deal — it happens all the time around the league — but Haynesworth also doesn't like the changes that have been made to the game plan. New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will play a 3-4 alignment, and Haynesworth doesn't relish the idea of being tied up at the line of scrimmage as a nose tackle.
Haynesworth skipped the first two minicamps — both voluntary — while hoping the Redskins would trade him. Shanahan firmly said a trade wasn't was going to happen. It's a standoff that could have profound effects on team chemistry for a coach trying to forge a winning attitude.
"Hopefully, he'll fit in,'' defensive lineman Phillip Daniels said, "and we can do some good things this year.''
For Haynesworth, this is the downside to a huge payday — the seven-year commitment that came with it. And even if he were to buy in to the new defense right away, Shanahan isn't cutting him any slack: The coach is expected to inform the players that the minicamp has been cut from three days to two as a reward for their hard work, giving the malcontent who's been away even less time to make up lost ground.
"He'll definitely have a lot of catching up to do,'' Shanahan said. "Hopefully he'll be in shape.''