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This Wednesday the Patriots officially ended the great Albert Haynesworth experiment, placing the defensive tackle on waivers after getting just six games out of him.
The cutting of Haynesworth, who had recorded just three tackles in his six games, comes after the Patriots loss to the Giants, their second straight, a game in which Haynesworth got into a confrontation with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.
Although Haynesworth has underperformed all season, the fact that the Patriots have played poorly recently has led to blame being put on both Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, the two big-name off-season acquisitions of the Patriots. While Ochocinco may be next on the cutting block if his play doesn’t improve, with the release of Haynesworth it is a good time to look back on his short-lived career with New England.
The Patriots-Haynesworth marriage started well. Haynesworth was acquired by the Pats in late July for a fifth-round pick, with Haynesworth waiving his guaranteed salary of 5.4 million with the Redskins so he could go to the Patriots.
Having struggled the year before with their pass rush, the Patriots were excited to get a potentially dominant lineman for next to nothing, and Haynesworth was excited to go to one of the NFL’s elite teams.
However, the first indication that Haynesworth’s stay with New England would not be all peaches and cream was when Bill Belichick ruled Haynesworth, “not ready to practice yet” two days after the trade. While Belichick wouldn’t specify the reason for this, by all indications it was because of poor conditioning. However, Haynesworth did end up passing a conditioning test and all was well again.
But soon after making his way onto the practice field, Haynesworth was sidelined again, this time with an undisclosed injury. This injury kept Haynesworth off the practice field for 20 days, but he was able to make it back for the Patriots preseason game against the Giants (ironically also the last team he would play in a Patriot uniform).
On Sept. 10, Haynesworth was absent form a Patriot practice due to “illness.” This continued the trend of Patriots not gives specific reasons as to why Haynesworth was not on the field. His first publicly disclosed injury came two weeks later, a back injury, which kept Haynesworth off the field for two weeks.
Haynesworth returned to the Patriots week five, but continued to disappoint with his lack of performance. In his five games after his injury Haynesworth recorded a grand total of one tackle in the Patriot loss to Pittsburgh.
The tipping point came in the third quarter of last week’s loss to New York when Haynesworth was pushed off the ball to open up a huge hole for Brandon Jacobs to run for a 10-yard touchdown. He would not return to the game, and three days later he was cut.
Looking back we can see a number of reasons for why the Albert Haynesworth experiment failed. First of all Haynesworth has always fared better in a 4-3 base defense rather than a 3-4 which the Patriots run.
The Patriots are known for their numerous defensive packages, and because of the time he spent off the field, both during the off-season and in season, Haynesworth never seemed to fully grasp the defense.
However this can’t be the only reason, as Haynesworth has the pure ability to dominate a game from any position on the line, and he never showed that ability with the Patriots. Though he expressed excitement at joining the Patriots, Haynesworth quickly relapsed into the player he was with Washington: lazy, undisciplined and ineffective.
Albert Haynesworth was signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just a day after being released, however this should not be taken as an indication that he still welcome on most teams. The Bucs were the only team to put out a waiver claim on Haynesworth, and only did so because of an injury to their starting defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
The common thought around the league is that if Haynesworth couldn’t shape up with the Patriots, he can’t for any team. The Bucs have only picked up Haynesworth’s contract for the year and have said they will have him on a short lease.
One interesting side note in the ongoing saga of Albert Haynesworth is that the Buccaneers offered him $120 million back in the 2009 offseason, which he turned down to play for the Redskins for less money. Haynesworth signing with the Redskins was the start of his downfall, and maybe his signing with the team that almost signed him could be the start of his revival.
One thing is certain however: if Haynesworth doesn’t play up to expectations in Tampa Bay, no other team will give him another chance.