Commentary

Albert Haynesworth didn't buy in

Despite his words, lack of effort, commitment doomed time with Patriots

Updated: November 9, 2011, 12:20 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

Albert Haynesworth arrived in New England shrouded by negativity, but pleaded for a fresh slate.

"Forget about that stuff. It's all in the past," Haynesworth said during his first meeting with the New England media in early August. "It's all about now -- rewriting my name as Albert Haynesworth the Patriot."

The self-professed sleeping giant who never quite awoke will roll out of bed Wednesday morning as Albert Haynesworth the Free Agent, and his three-month stint in New England has done nothing to rewrite his reputation, only cement it.

It could have been different.

Whether he was gushing about his longtime admiration for the Patriots organization or talking about his best friend's towing company in Worcester, you couldn't help but walk away from a Haynesworth interview without thinking about how engaging he was. You'd find yourself wondering how in the world he was considered such a poison at his last stop in Washington.

You believed him when he described New England as a career-saving stop on his football journey, maybe the last in a career gone awry. You gave him the benefit of the doubt when he repeated -- from his first interview with the media in August until his last before the Giants game last week -- how he was still knocking off rust from inactivity.

But here's the thing: Actions speak louder than words. And Haynesworth's actions -- or lack thereof -- combined with some ill-timed yapping on the sideline during Sunday's loss to the Giants, sealed his fate.

[+] EnlargeAlbert Haynesworth
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesOf 24 official game-week practices, Albert Haynesworth was either a limited participant or didn't participate at all 17 times.

Tantalizingly talented in tiny bursts, Haynesworth was an infrequent participant in training camp, preseason games, practices and regular-season games alike. He sat out a long stretch of camp, even as coach Bill Belichick and his teammates covered for his unexplained absence, and made only a brief cameo in the final preseason game.

He emerged that night gushing about his situation in New England.

"Everybody is here for you," Haynesworth said. "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."

Trouble was Haynesworth was too relaxed. And he wasn't there for his coach. He wasn't there for his owner. He wasn't there for his teammates.

The Patriots engaged in 24 official practices during the eight game weeks that Haynesworth was with the team; in 70.8 percent of them he was either a limited participant (11) or did not participate at all (6).

Despite an impressive debut in Miami, it was all downhill from there. He tweaked his back in Week 2 against the Chargers and sat out the next two weeks. Over his final four appearances, Haynesworth played only 79 snaps (a mere 28.2 percent of the team's total defensive plays).

Sound familiar? Cornerback Leigh Bodden got a big payday a couple of years back, but injuries left him with a bit of rust too. He was the team's third cornerback this season and was limited (12) or missed (2) 66.7 percent of the team's practice sessions with a hodegpodge of injuries before being released before a Week 7 game in Pittsburgh.

In the doctrine of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, practice might be more important than game day. And you have to give 100 percent of yourself to the team.

Neither Bodden nor Haynesworth seemed interested in doing that.

Haynesworth had said all the right things up until Sunday, when he was reportedly spotted in a sideline confrontation with assistant coach Pepper Johnson after what would be his final snap in a New England uniform (one in which he got pushed around on Brandon Jacobs' 10-yard touchdown run -- the last in a string of head-shaking snaps that punctuated his Patriots career).

Spouting off at a top defensive assistant suggested that Haynesworth was putting himself before the team. The Patriots couldn't allow it, no matter how much they yearned for Haynesworth to turn the corner performance-wise. Even if it came at the expense of giving up on the player and enduring the criticism that will surely come with misfiring on another personnel evaluation.

The Patriots figure to give Haynesworth's reps to the likes of second-year tackle Kyle Love, a player hellbent on making the most of his opportunity, establishing himself as a starter after injuries opened doors (doors that Haynesworth himself never tried to walk through).

The Patriots' Week 14 visit to Washington has gotten decidedly less intriguing with Haynesworth's release, though we suspect Mike Shanahan will have a few friendly "I told you so" lines waiting for old friend Belichick.

Haynesworth had said that if he got cut, this could be the end of the line for him. He's right, as it's hard to imagine too many teams willing to give him yet another opportunity to prove he's a changed man.

Asked back in August what he meant by restoring his name, Haynesworth said: "Just, you know, to show that Albert Haynesworth can still play football."

He begged us to forget the past, but all Albert Haynesworth did in three months in New England was remind us that nothing has changed.

Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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