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This debut worth the wait

Haynesworth shakes off rust in solid effort

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / September 2, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - The money doesn’t seem as important now to Albert Haynesworth.

Bundle up the big contract and the $41 million guaranteed and Haynesworth said he would give it all back to the Washington Redskins just to have played with the New England Patriots two years ago.

After making his debut in an exhibition game with the Patriots last night, the defensive lineman said he is in a system that excites him, enjoys playing for a coach who is behind him, and for the first time in a while is having fun playing football again.

Haynesworth played 14 snaps in the 18-17 exhibition loss to the New York Giants. The Patriots started Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter at defensive end and Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork at tackle.

At times Haynesworth looked winded, but he also showed his explosiveness, albeit against the Giants’ second and third stringers as coach Tom Coughlin rested many of his starters. For players like Haynesworth and Ellis just getting reps was a priority.

“I need to knock off a lot of rust,’’ Haynesworth said. “I kind of have just been rusting sitting in D.C. So I need to get back to that playing form I had when I was with the Titans.’’

After missing a stretch of practices for an undisclosed reason, Haynesworth has been working to find his spot on the rotation. He said playing in New England could save his career.

“If I choose to go out there and play, and God forbid, I got cut from this team, yeah, I know I can go out there and play for another team. But I feel like this is going to be the last place I want to play,’’ Haynesworth said. “If it doesn’t work out here, then I’m not going to play anywhere else.’’

Haynesworth said the differences between the Patriots and Redskins are too numerous to list, but in his few weeks in New England, he appreciates the experience.

“You know what, all said and done, hell, I’d give that money back [to the Redskins] and then come here,’’ Haynesworth said.

It was also the debut for Ellis, who signed with the Patriots after building a career with the New York Jets. He looked like he was in good shape and picked up a sack in the first half.

The fourth exhibition game tends to be a bore as the players competing for the last roster spots handle most of the snaps. But the first half was interesting because of the appearances by Haynesworth and Ellis.

The Patriots took a vanilla approach with the defensive line, but managed to use several rotation of players. The approach is something that Haynesworth said could work in his favor.

“What we do here is we rotate a lot,’’ he said. “We had a lot of depth at Tennessee. Here, we have great depth. We have guys that can go to any other team and start. So like [defensive line coach Pepper Johnson] tells us, ‘Go as hard as you can for however many plays and if that’s three or four plays, do that, come out and we’ll send in somebody else and send another wave of attack in.’ ’’

As the Patriots prepare for their season opener against the Miami Dolphins next week, Haynesworth said he is comfortable giving everything he has for the Patriots.

“It’s not like you have to watch your back or anything like that,’’ he said. “You know everybody is here for you. I really enjoy that. I know my head coach is for me. I know my owner is for me. I know my players are for me. I feel relaxed. I’m having fun again. I’m having fun playing football again.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @monwalker.

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