Monday, August 2, 2010
Albert Haynesworth cuts test short
ESPN.com news services
ASHBURN, Va. -- This time, Albert Haynesworth started but had to stop.
The two-time All-Pro defensive tackle tried to take the Washington Redskins' conditioning test again Monday morning, but he pulled up after three back-and-forth sprints because he felt some irritation in his left knee.
Haynesworth isn't allowed to practice until he passes the test, which consists of two timed 300-yard back-and-forth shuttle runs performed 3½ minutes apart. Each back-and-forth sprint is 50 yards, so Haynesworth completed about half of the first part of the test before stopping.
"That's one of the reasons he's not out there practicing with the team," coach Mike Shanahan said. "You've got to be in certain shape to go through a practice, and that knee after three sprints back and forth couldn't go any further."
Haynesworth failed the test on the first day of training camp Thursday after taking an extended bathroom break in the middle of it. He failed again Friday when he didn't post a sufficient time, then didn't attempt it Saturday or Sunday because his knee was sore.
Unlike previous days, when he was mostly exiled from his teammates during practice, Haynesworth for the first time looked like a regular injured player at training camp. He walked onto the field at the start of practice in his No. 92 jersey with no pads and stayed for the entire session, watching the various drills while holding a play sheet. He wore a baseball cap but also brought his helmet, which he repeatedly tossed playfully in the air.
Afterward, he stayed for what has become a daily ritual -- a solo session with defensive coaches to walk through some of the plays.
Haynesworth is the only player required to take the test, having boycotted the team's offseason conditioning program. For Shanahan, the knee problem helps vindicate the coach's decision not to have him practice.
"Hopefully with treatment it gets better and he gets in football shape," Shanahan said. "And he's out there ready to play with his teammates."
Shanahan again said he is confident Haynesworth will eventually pass the test. The coach was asked how long the saga can drag on, and whether there might be a point at which he would put Haynesworth in pads anyway -- even if the test isn't passed.
"Possibly," Shanahan said with shrug. "You'll just have to stick around."
"It's like someone sprained an ankle," the coach added. "If you sprain an ankle, you can't run. If you can't run, you can't practice. He's got to get in football shape."
One reason the Redskins can let their most infamous malcontent twist in the wind day after day is because they can put together a decent starting defensive line without him. While Shanahan opened the door just a sliver Monday that he might one day let Haynesworth practice without passing the team's conditioning test, the coach can also point to Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston and feel confident in what he sees.
"Very confident," Shanahan said. "That's what you do. You practice with the guys that are in football shape -- and are doing what they can to help your football team."
The trio has already logged hundreds of training camp snaps together as the front line of the team's new 3-4 defense, the scheme a certain two-time All-Pro defensive tackle tried so hard to avoid. When and if he ever does practice, there won't exactly be a loud chorus of "Make room for Haynesworth."
"We've got three good players. We've got three guys who work hard," Carriker said. "We're building a chemistry. We're not there yet, but we're getting to the point where I know what [Kemoeatu] is going to do before he does it. The more we get to do that, the better it'll be."
Haynesworth will initially work with the reserves when he does start practicing, Shanahan has decreed. Players say Haynesworth also has plenty of ground to make up on the team's camaraderie depth chart for boycotting the offseason workouts.
"He's been gone all year," fullback Mike Sellers said. "He hasn't been missed. Once he gets in shape, I guess, and gets back on the field, that's a plus always, but we've gone so long without him. It's kind of hard to miss him. ... Everybody put in the work. We really wanted him here to put in the work with us."
Certainly, the Redskins would be better with Haynesworth than without him. For one thing, the Kemoeatu-Carriker-Golston line has its share of pitfalls.
The threesome has experience -- a combined 117 NFL starts -- but only six of those starts came last year. Kemoeatu missed the entire season with the Carolina Panthers after tearing his right Achilles tendon in training camp, Carriker sat out the season with the St. Louis Rams after tearing a muscle in his right shoulder, and Golston was mostly a backup with the Redskins playing in a different position -- defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.
Kemoeatu and Carriker say they have recovered from their injuries and are working their way back into full football shape, but even a healthy starting line rotates in and out of the game to stay fresh. Kemoeatu's current backup at nose tackle is Anthony Bryant, a fourth-year player who has been cut six times in his career.
Haynesworth doesn't want to play nose tackle, and he appears to have lost enough weight to warrant some coveted playmaking snaps at defensive end. He's shown that when he's motivated he can be a dominant player, but he hasn't played 16 games since he was a rookie in 2002.
With Shanahan in charge, Haynesworth will have to show both motivation and fitness -- and then have some catching up to do -- before getting a chance to displace Kemoeatu, Carriker or Golston.
"The more days that he's not out here," defensive end Phillip Daniels said, "he gets further behind."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.