Falling into line
Haynesworth happy to have a fresh start
FOXBOROUGH - Saying he is “revived’’ and calling his chance to escape Washington and play for New England “a refresher,’’ defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth met with reporters after practice yesterday.
Haynesworth, known for being a combative malcontent in his time with the Redskins and as someone who can at times have a short fuse, displayed none of those qualities during the eight-minute question-and-answer session, during which he discussed his longtime admiration for Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization, what his role on the defense will be, and restoring his name.
The revival began with a 6:30 a.m. text from his agent, Chad Speck, a few days ago, as he told Haynesworth “we’re headed to New England.’’ (The player’s reaction: “Hell yeah.’’)
It continued through conversations with Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, and Haynesworth being welcomed by his new teammates from the moment he walked through the door and by the fans the moment he stepped on the practice field.
Will it last? Who knows? Haynesworth gave a similarly upbeat press conference upon signing his mega-contract with the Redskins in 2009, and things there went about as badly as they could have before Washington sent him here for the paltry price of a fifth-round pick.
For now, Haynesworth is happy.
Asked if he considers this to be a fresh start, Haynesworth said, “Yeah, of course. It’s a new team, it’s a great organization, I’ve been a fan of this team for a long time - you know, other than when playing them, but I always liked the Patriots.’’
Haynesworth said his best friend lives in Massachusetts, and that he has made several visits to the area, including sitting in the stands for the 2007 AFC title game when New England hosted San Diego. He got tickets from Rodney Harrison and was “sitting up in the stands freezing my butt off.’’
“I always liked Coach Belichick, the way he did things, the way the team performed,’’ Haynesworth said. “Just the way he handled the team and everything.
“Now, being on the inside, he’s very detail-oriented and demands perfection every time. I’ve been on some really good teams and played with some great players but I’ve never been in a situation where it’s like perfection every time. Not for a person but for the team.’’
The 6-foot-6-inch, 335-pound Haynesworth participated in more snaps yesterday during a full-pads workout than he did Sunday, and acknowledged that he’s trying to get his legs back under him after not playing football for so long.
When he has been paired with Vince Wilfork in the middle of a four-man line, the pair has shown to be formidable. New England is expected to get Logan Mankins and Matt Light on the practice field tomorrow, which will make for even more intense trench battles.
For Haynesworth and Wilfork, playing side by side is the realization of what they once considered a pipe dream.
“I went to the Pro Bowl with Vince [in 2007] and the funny thing is, when we were at the Pro Bowl I said, ‘Man, what if we were on the same team?’ He said, ‘Aw, dude, that would be crazy.’ But look, two, three years later, here we are,’’ Haynesworth said.
While Haynesworth doesn’t seem to take much responsibility for the way things went in Washington - “Well, I mean, it’s all got my name on it, it’s just whatever, but I’m just going to leave all that in the past’’ - he wants the chance to show that he’s still a productive player.
“Forget about that stuff, it’s all in the past,’’ he said. “It’s all about now, rewriting my name as Albert Haynesworth the Patriot.’’
Albert the Patriot said he doesn’t care about playing in a 3-4 or 4-3; he sees one job.
“I’m willing to attack the quarterback and kill the running back,’’ he said. “I don’t care what gap I’m in, as long as it’s the gap where the ball is. That’s the gap I’m going to be in.’’
For a team that struggled to do those things last year, it’s a welcome declaration.