It's been a few days since we've had any drama in D.C. -- last time we saw our Redskins friends, they were losing Vinny Cerrato and pulling off the dumbest trick play in NFL history. The latest from Landover is this: Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth(notes), the team's primary off-season free-agent acquisision, was sent home from practice on Friday after arriving late for a team meeting. Haynesworth went on the field anyway, at which point he and head coach/dead man walking Jim Zorn had what Jason Reid of the Washington Post called an "animated conversation".
"I sent Albert home, just for disciplinary reasons," Zorn told the media after practice was over. "I think that all that will be kept between Albert and I. He wasn't belligerent or nasty to me, and I was not nasty to him. It was just something that needed to be done. It's just between us and our football team, and I hope it stays that way."
It didn't. Shortly after his "disciplinary incident", Haynesworth opened up to Reid and WaPo colleague Dan Steinberg, making his feelings very clear on his role in Washington's defense. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache's schemes have been a rare bright spot for most of the season (though certainly not in the 45-12 beatdown they suffered at the hands of the New York Giants on Monday night), but Haynesworth cited several concerns and said that he wouldn't "survive another season in this system if it stays the way it is."
"If they keep this system the way it is, then they would label Albert Haynesworth a bust who didn't live up to the contract. Everybody would say he just took the money and ran off. And I'm still playing as hard as I possibly can. But you can only do so much within the system that's put around you. And I'm not talking about the players. The players have been great. I couldn't ask for any better guys. I'm talking about the system. And [the coaches] can say whatever they want about that [the reason he was sent home Friday]. The main thing it's coming from is what I said after the game about leadership and about the team."
Ironically, this all happened after Haynesworth had his best game in a Redskins uniform, recording six solo tackles and a sack in the loss to New York. After trading blows with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs(notes) during the game, a stunt that left his wallet $10,000 lighter, Haynesworth said some things about the team lacking leadership. While Zorn says that the comments have nothing to do with sending the player home, Haynesworth feels it's all connected in a scenario that has become a nightmare for him. "They're all against me or whatever," he said. "But I know what I'm saying is right because I've been in a scheme that works."
Haynesworth is talking about the system in Tennessee that allowed him to charge the line and make plays in the opposing backfield, as opposed to the Washington scheme which requires tackles to stay in their assigned areas and open up lanes for other defenders to shoot through. It's been a success in that regard -- Brian Orakpo(notes) and Andre Carter(notes) are tied with Dallas' DeMarcus Ware(notes) at sixth in the NFL with 11 sacks each. The entire Redskins team had only 24 sacks in 2008. Haynesworth does have a point, though he needs a different way of expressing it -- why would you give $41 million guaranteed to a defensive tackle if you just wanted him to fill gaps?
However, the larger point seems to reside on the Redskins' side. Haynesworth may not like Blache, but Blache is the one coach on Washington's staff whose charges have outperformed the average this season. No matter the regime change, he's the guy with the best chance of surviving it if he so chooses. Meaning that Haynesworth will be "stuck" with a guy he doesn't like and doesn't seem to want to play for. In addition, the team could point to Haynesworth's declining stats as being the result of his coming out of several games with various injuries.
Just one more thing for the 'Skins to deal with in what will be a VERY busy offseason...
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