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As he watched Albert Haynesworth stomping on the unhelmeted head of Andre Gurode during several Sunday night replay packages, an action now viewed as one of the most reprehensible in league history, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Darwin Walker was shocked by what he was seeing.
Shocked but not totally surprised.
"What people need to understand is that Albert is, and always has been, a really emotional guy," said Walker, who started next to Haynesworth at defensive tackle during their time together at the University of Tennessee. "And he's a guy who will let his emotions get the better of him. I'm not making any excuses for him, you know? But he's a guy who the older players had to take care of back [at Tennessee]. I tried to be a mentor to him. So did other [older] players. Because he needed that. And if he didn't have it, didn't have an older player or two looking out for him, that's when bad stuff happened."
Walker shook his head when asked about a 2000 incident in which Haynesworth, upset with Vols offensive tackle Will Ofenheusle, returned after practice, toting a long metal pipe and seeking out his teammate. That was, some former college teammates acknowledged, just one of several incidents in Haynesworth's campus career that shook them.
Haynesworth was considered a talented player whose competitive fire burned bright, but sometimes turned into an out-of-control inferno, said Green Bay Packers offensive left tackle Chad Clifton, another former Tennessee teammate.
"There were times when you knew that you wanted to steer clear of Albert, because he'd be so upset about something, and he'd let it get to him," Clifton said.
The players both emphasized that Haynesworth is not a bad person, but rather one who needs guidance, who has to understand he is going to be held accountable for every action, and who functions best when he is surrounded by a strong support group.
"I'm not condoning what Albert did," said Walker, who maintains a casual relationship with Haynesworth. "There are no excuses for something like that, and I won't try to make any. But even after being in the NFL for this many years now, I think he's still the kind of guy who needs people around him to help keep him in check. At Tennessee, we tried hard to provide that for him."
-- ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli