New Buccaneers defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said Thursday he was excited to be back in a true 4-3 defense and that Tampa Bay was where he should have signed three years ago instead of joining the Washington Redskins.
"It feels great, it feels unbelievable. Just to get off the ball and wreak havoc, that's awesome," Haynesworth said of the Buccaneers' defensive scheme. "Everybody can say, 'Oh, you're in a 4-3 defense.' But just because you're in a 4-3 defense doesn't mean (it is) what I did in Tennessee and I had to learn that the hard way (in New England)."
The Patriots released Haynesworth Tuesday and he was claimed Wednesday by the Buccaneers.
"It was a great place. Coach (Bill) Belichick is a great guy (with) a good system. But I just wanted to play more," Haynesworth said. "I wanted to practice more, get more reps. The more reps, the more plays I get, the better I'll get. I just wasn't getting a lot of reps, so they made the decision to let me go."
Haynesworth, who has 30½ career sacks, emerged as one of the top tackles in the NFL during seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans. But he's been a huge disappointment since signing a seven-year, $100 million free-agent contract with Washington in 2009, clashing repeatedly with coach Mike Shanahan during two rocky seasons, and continuing to struggle after joining New England in a trade.
The Bucs also were in discussions with Haynesworth on the night in 2009 when he signed his big deal with the Redskins.
"I'm excited, you know. This is where I should have been like three years ago. But I think all good things come to somebody that waits," Haynesworth said.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik admitted Wednesday, however, that his team likely wouldn't have put a claim in for Haynesworth were it not for the season-ending injury to Gerald McCoy.
McCoy, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, was injured during last Sunday's loss to New Orleans. He was placed on injured reserve Monday, and the player the Bucs initially signed to replace him -- John McCargo -- was released Wednesday to free up a roster spot for Haynesworth.
Pressed about his expectations for Haynesworth, Dominik conceded that the tackle would be evaluated "week to week" and could find himself without a team again if he does not perform.
In six games with the Patriots, he had three tackles and no sacks. His last play was early in the third quarter of Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Giants when Brandon Jacobs scored on a 10-yard run.
When asked why he didn't get a lot of playing time with the Patriots, Haynesworth said it could be because of several factors.
"Some of it might have been health issues, some of it was that we had a lot of defensive linemen," he said. "We would switch different things depending on the team we played. Some teams that we had to play, the scheme we were running that week didn't really fit me that well."
He said Thursday that he can be a mentor to the Bucs' younger defensive linemen.
"I'm an older guy and I think they brought me in here to play hard and also to teach some of the younger guys how to play," Haynesworth said. "I'll be somewhat of, I guess, a mentor . . . Get off the ball and disrupt and show them really how good it is that the grass ain't greener on the other side always."
Bucs coach Raheem Morris would not speculate about how much Haynesworth might play against the Texans, who have the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack. But with McCoy's backup, Frank Okam, still not practicing because of a calf injury, Haynesworth could be on the field for 20 to 35 plays.
"It's not about what you want," Morris said of his expectations. "It's about what you can get them to get done, what you can get accomplished during the week and then throwing him out there to see what he can do for us. He just wants to be here and help his team win. He did a nice job today of getting out there in practice and doing some good things."
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss, ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas and The Associated Press was used in this report.