- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Albert Haynesworth was in the stands when the New England Patriots defeated the visiting San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship Game following the 2007 season, cheering with the rest of the team's fans. He said Tuesday that he's always been an admirer of the Patriots.
Now he plays for them, and since being acquired in a trade last Friday, he's focusing on a fresh start and what he calls a chance to restore his name as a football player.
"It's a refresher, I love it," Haynesworth said Tuesday after the team's three-hour practice. "It kind of revived me."
A revived and motivated Haynesworth could revamp the way the Patriots play defense. Having run a base 3-4 defense in recent years, the addition of Haynesworth could signal a shift to a 4-3. In his first two training camp practices, Haynesworth has been lining up next to Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork as part of a four-man line, and the two have been creating havoc.
"It's going to be scary for other teams," Haynesworth said of a 1-2 tandem with Wilfork.
As for his role in the scheme, Haynesworth said simply, "Just to kill the quarterback."
That's what the Patriots need most after ranking last in the NFL on third down last season, with opposing quarterbacks often too comfortable in the pocket.
In trading for Haynesworth, the Patriots are banking on him turning back the clock to his days with the Tennessee Titans (2002-08), when he emerged as one of the NFL's premier defensive linemen. Patriots senior advisor Floyd Reese was the Titans' general manager when Haynesworth arrived in Tennessee, and coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that he consulted Reese during the acquisition process.
Haynesworth didn't look anything like that player the last two years with the Washington Redskins, a time that also included legal troubles, which he said he's not interested in revisiting.
"Everything is in the past; I'm leaving all that stuff back in Washington," he said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on being a great player for this organization."
Haynesworth had arrived in Washington with big expectations, the result of a megabucks free agent contract, but was a colossal disappointment. He played only eight games last season.
"It was just the way they had it, the way they wanted to play. No (big) deal to me," he said. "I knew I could still play, so I got a chance to come here and play football. They're going to put me on the field here and they're going to let me play and it's going to be fun."
Asked how much responsibility he takes for things that went wrong in Washington, he said, "Well, it's all got my name on it. I'm just going to leave that in the past, leave that in Washington, and have a fresh, new, clean start here in New England."
The Patriots were willing to take the risk and hope Haynesworth behaves as other players with checkered pasts did after joining Belichick in New England.
"Not speaking on any particular player, but as I've said many times, anytime you bring a person into the organization, you have to feel comfortable doing that and that encompasses a lot of different things," said Belichick, who would not get into specifics on Haynesworth's previous troubles.
"In the end, you go through the process, you get any information that you can acquire through whatever those sources are. And you evaluate the player, evaluate your team, evaluate the situation, and if you decide to bring that player onto your team, then you do that with the expectations that it will work out.
"And if you don't, then you don't and he's not on your team. It's not one thing, it's a process."
To this point, Belichick has liked what he's seen from Haynesworth.
"Albert has worked hard. I think that it's coming (along)," Belichick said. "We've got a long way to go, so just take it day by day, but I think he's doing fine."
Numerous times in the team's last two practices, Haynesworth has broken through the line to disrupt a play. He explained that he's still getting his legs under him, but that the role reminds him of what he played in Tennessee, which would signal a Patriots shift to a 4-3 alignment, with Haynesworth in a disruptive role lining up shaded on the center or guard.
Haynesworth said he first got word of the trade to New England in a text message at 6:30 a.m., and was excited for the chance to play for Belichick.
"I always liked Coach Belichick, just the way he did things, the way the team performed, the way he handled the team and everything," he said. "Now being on the inside, he's very detail oriented and he demands perfection every time. I've been on some really good teams, with a lot of 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."
Haynesworth passed the Patriots' conditioning test Sunday and said he feels like he's in good shape, although there is still some rust to shake off.
In Washington, he expressed reservations about playing nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment. Asked if he's willing to play in a 3-4 in New England, he responded, "I'm willing to attack the quarterback and kill the running back, knock everything back. Whatever gap the ball is in, that's the gap I want to be in."
Haynesworth said one aspect that has surprised him since arriving in New England last Thursday is how welcoming everyone has been.
He had enjoyed his experience at the AFC Championship Game following the 2007 season, with former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison leaving him tickets, and now he's seeing from an inside perspective.
"The way everybody takes me in, like I'm just part of the family already," he said. "I met with Coach and we had a great conversation. I met with (owner) Mr. (Robert) Kraft, we had a great conversation. And Pep (defensive line coach Pepper Johnson). Everything's been great, even some of the fans I ran in to. It's been awesome."
As for restoring his name, Haynesworth explained what he meant.
"Just to show that Albert Haynesworth can still play football," he said. "It's all about now, rewriting my name as Albert Haynesworth the Patriot."
Also, the Patriots officially re-signed tackle Matt Light, who has spent 10 seasons with the team.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
13hDoug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Information