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Haynesworth's effort spoke volumes

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  November 8, 2011 05:12 PM

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Bill Belichick and the Patriots have now rotated defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth right out of Gillette Stadium.

Two days after Haynesworth was benched for the final 24 minutes of the Patriots' 24-20 loss to the New York Giants after he was flattened by Giants guard David Diehl on Brandon Jacobs' third-quarter touchdown, leading to a verbal confrontation with peeved defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, and one day after Belichick claimed his absence was "rotation-related," the Patriots released the indolent defensive tackle on Tuesday.

Adios, Albert. You lived up to your reputation. You said all the right things and then did virtually nothing. Haynesworth played in six games for the Patriots and tallied three tackles, no sacks and two quarterback hits.

The Patriots learned the hard way what the Washington Redskins found out -- Haynesworth talks a better game than he plays. When he arrived in Washington in 2009 with a $100 million contract, and an NFL-record $41-million in guarantees, he proclaimed, "You're not going to remember Albert Haynesworth as a bust." That's exactly how he's remembered by the Redskins, who were all too eager to pawn him off on the Patriots.

When Haynesworth got here, he said all the right things too, seducing Patriots fans and media with his disarming charm and articulateness. Haynesworth said his role would be to "just kill the quarterback." He said playing for the Patriots was a chance to "restore my name." He said of his past transgressions -- "It's all in the past. It’s all about now -- rewriting my name as Albert Haynesworth the Patriot."

After he spent most of the preseason with his name synonymous for being absent from practice, he said, "It's time for me, the sleeping giant, to awake." Guess, he kept hitting the snooze button.

Haynesworth was supposed to be the defensive version of Randy Moss for the Patriots, a rehabilitated player who found religion in the Patriot Way and wreaked havoc on the rest of the league with his passion reignited. The only thing Haynesworth had in common with Moss is that his departure from the team came after he got in a verbal dispute with a member of the coaching staff.

This will go down as an embarrassing personnel miscalculation for Belichick. You can pass it off as a low-risk move because the Patriots only surrendered a 2013 fifth-round pick and restructured his contract into a pay-for-play deal. But Haynesworth was always an at-risk player with a detailed dossier of questionable behavior on and off the field.

It was risky business betting on him at all, and smacked of hubris and sanctimony.

On the field, Haynesworth was supposed to be the guy to collapse the pocket for the Patriots. He was going to be a centerpiece of the move to a 4-3 defense. He showed potential in the season-opener against Miami, drawing double teams and holding calls. But that was his best performance.

He was a solid, if not always conspicuous, presence against the Jets, Cowboys and Steelers, occupying blockers, before his play fell off against the Giants. If only Haynesworth had fought off the pancake block of Diehl with the vigor he displayed in defending himself from the ire of Johnson.

Updated at 8:26 p.m.:
A source who spoke to Haynesworth said the team indicated to him that they had been pleased with Haynesworth's effort to try to make the adjustments to make it work in New England. But unfortunately due to nagging knee and back injuries it wasn't working out, and they felt it was time to move on.

Haynesworth never really seemed in shape, missing much of training camp and two games (Buffalo and Oakland) with nagging back and knee ailments. As a 30-year-old, 350-pounder (cough, cough) he seemed to be caught in a hefty man's Hobson's choice when it came to conditioning. Being out of shape caused him to get hurt easily, but trying to get into shape caused him to re-aggravate his injuries.

Outside of the disappointment of Haynesworth not working out from a football standpoint is the embarrassment of the Patriots putting their brand on the line for this guy, repeatedly telling us they had sat down with him and been assured he would be on his best behavior.

Haynesworth wasn't a malcontent they said. No, he was just misunderstood. Haynesworth understood all too well that he simply had to tell Belichick and the Kraft family what they wanted to hear. They got conned.

You can hear the chorus of laughter from Washington making its way up the Northeast Corridor like an Acela train. This was like Red Sox fans gleefully providing the inevitable told-you-so to Dodger fans once Manny Ramirez's true colors came to light.

Problem-child players don't change. They just change teams.

The amazing part is that of Belichick's two major offseason acquisitions, Haynesworth and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, he has cut the more productive player.

Ochocinco hasn't recorded a catch since the last time the Patriots faced the Jets -- Oct. 9 -- although in fairness he got open a couple of times on Sunday and the ball was either not thrown to him or not delivered on time. It's obvious, however, that he and quarterback Tom Brady have about as healthy a relationship as Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

Brady cited the fact he's only been playing with Ochocinco for eight games as part of the issue. Of course eight games into his first year with Moss and Wes Welker no one was counting games, just touchdowns. Brady is even looking in Ochocinco's direction, begrudgingly.

If the Jets send the Patriots to their third straight loss on Sunday, and Ochocinco goes catchless again, you wonder if 85 is the next number that's up in Foxborough.

Haynesworth said a lot while he was here. Perhaps, the most revealing words from Haynesworth came when he indecorously said, "Go, Patriots," as he entered District of Columbia Superior Court to plead no contest to simple assault for allegedly sliding a credit card into the bosom of a hotel waitress and fondling her.

The Patriots had the final say Tuesday, and they said, "Go, Albert."

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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