Haynesworth’s participation livens up Patriots’ afternoon practice
FOXBOROUGH - The crowd spotted No. 92 as he strolled across the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium yesterday. He was hard to miss. Albert Haynesworth, dressed in full pads, carried his helmet next to his 6-foot-6-inch, 335-pound body.
Cheers greeted Haynesworth and he waved a hand to acknowledge the fans gathered for the Patriots’ afternoon practice. After passing a conditioning test earlier in the day, Haynesworth was officially able to participate in practice.
In a few plays, Haynesworth provided a glimpse of what he could do this season after being traded to New England from the Redskins last week. He participated in warm-ups and a handful of plays, but spent much of the practice shadowing defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and watching drills.
Those who may not have been as happy to see Haynesworth were a few members of the Patriots’ offensive line. Haynesworth muscled his way through the line in a drill that pitted three defensive linemen against two offensive linemen and one tight end.
Haynesworth first motored through Rich Ohrnberger and Ryan Wendell. On the next snap, he pushed Wendell back. Both moves against the backup linemen received loud applause from the overflow crowd.
But the Haynesworth show didn’t last much longer. He participated in drills and then sat out the second half of practice as he stood by Johnson.
When players ran sprints at the close of the session, Haynesworth did not participate, moving to the sideline to join other players in stretching.
Just how much Haynesworth can help the Patriots remains to be seen. He has played 20 games the last two seasons and has not started a game since 2009. But how he fits in will be up to him, said Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel.
“I think with any player, you’re trying to identify their strengths and their weakness, what they do well,’’ Caserio said. “The reality is, any player we bring into this program, they’re going to define what their role is going to be with their performance and what they do on the field. The more they can do and they can execute those assignments and those techniques, then they’ll be put in that position. But the players are going to determine what their role ultimately is on the team.
“But Albert’s been a good football player in this league. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s athletic and he’s a disruptive player. I think we’ve always taken the approach that if the guy’s a good football player, we’ll find a way to use him. In the end, it’s up to the player to determine what his role is going to be.’’
The theme seems to be patience with Haynesworth, who passed his physical yesterday morning. He failed a physical with the Redskins in 2009 and last season failed Washington coach Mike Shanahan’s conditioning run.
But the Patriots are giving Haynesworth his chance. He did not participate Saturday when the team had its first practice in full pads. At that time, coach Bill Belichick said Haynesworth would be on the field when he was ready. That moment was yesterday, when Haynesworth participated in the walkthrough during the morning session.
The Patriots say they aren’t concerned about Haynesworth’s dedication. Belichick was asked Saturday if he believes football is important to the lineman.
“Of course, otherwise I don’t think he would be playing football,’’ Belichick said.
Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.