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As Redskins players vent frustrations over Albert Haynesworth, team weighs its options

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 17, 2010; D06

As the Washington Redskins began to weigh their options for responding to disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the lineman's teammates were mostly unified in their displeasure with his decision to skip the mandatory minicamp that began Wednesday.

Center Casey Rabach called Haynesworth "selfish," veteran linebacker London Fletcher said he "can't be depended upon," and defensive end Phillip Daniels said "he really turned his back on us."

With those sentiments swirling around Redskins Park, the team's brass discussed its next move, though there was no indication by day's end how they might proceed.

A league source said the Redskins were investigating the possibility of seizing some of the $26 million in bonus money Haynesworth already has been paid. Provisions in the collective bargaining agreement would appear to prohibit that, and a person familiar with the situation said Haynesworth consulted with the NFL Players Association before he skipped minicamp to ensure that his bonus money was secure.

But an ESPN report, citing an unnamed source who had reviewed Haynesworth's contract, said language in it might provide the team a way to recoup some of the money.

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan made clear that he was disappointed by Haynesworth's absence Wednesday morning after the team's rain-shortened practice. He declined to comment on possible penalties, but it is believed that Haynesworth will be fined about $10,000 for skipping the two-day minicamp.

Shanahan also would not say whether the Redskins would engage in trade talks, which Haynesworth has requested through his agent, but said the team was willing to part ways with Haynesworth earlier this spring. He said he spoke with Haynesworth in February and gave the player permission to find another team. The Redskins were willing to release Haynesworth if he would forgo the $21 million bonus he was due, but, Shanahan said, Haynesworth was given only until April 1 to find another team.

"But on April 1, when we owed him a check for $21 million, we said, 'If you do take that check, we expect you to be the best defensive end, best nose tackle and if we played you at free safety, we'd expect you to be the best free safety' -- even though he'd have to lose a little weight," Shanahan said.

"Obviously, he took the check, so I was surprised that he wasn't here today," he said. Shanahan said he hasn't spoken with Haynesworth since the first day of the offseason conditioning program March 15, and learned of Haynesworth's intentions to skip minicamp from media reports Tuesday night.

Shanahan's feelings seemed to thread their way through the team Wednesday. Of the players interviewed following practice, none was as outspoken as Fletcher, the team's defensive captain.

"What he's decided to do is make a decision based all about him," Fletcher said. "It's no different than his attitude and his approach to last year's defense, about wanting everything to revolve around him and him making plays. And if it didn't benefit him, he wasn't really willing to do it.

"I want teammates who I can depend on," Fletcher added, "who I can count on."

Shanahan has stressed the importance of players participating in the team's offseason conditioning program and practices, and most have shown up and gracefully deflected questions about Haynesworth's absence. But few were making excuses for him Wednesday.

"We supported him all summer, all offseason," Daniels told reporters. "It's now come to the point where he's got to earn our respect again because he turned his back on us. That's how it is. I'm speaking for every guy in the locker room right now."

Not everyone was as harsh in his assessment. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall said he spoke with Haynesworth on Tuesday night and described the standoff as complex.

Haynesworth signed with Washington last spring because he thought he had found a perfect situation for himself in the Redskins' 4-3 defense, Hall said. But Haynesworth wants no part of the team's transition to a 3-4 defense, which would call on him to engage blockers rather than chase the quarterback.

"In this league, there's going to be a lot of changes. There's going to be a lot of coaching changes, front-office changes, and we understand that's part of the business," Hall said. "But at the same time, promises were made and things just weren't what he thought they were going to be. From that standpoint, you got to respect that."

Haynesworth received a $5 million signing bonus when he signed a seven-year, $100 million deal with the team last spring. He was paid a base salary of $6 million last season and is due another $9 million in guaranteed salaries for 2010 and 2011. But it's the large bonus that the team may attempt to recoup.

The NFL labor pact prohibits teams from taking back bonus money unless a player misses regular season games or "willfully takes action that has the effect of substantially undermining his ability to fully participate and contribute in either preseason training camp or the regular season."

That could mean the Redskins would have to prove that by missing minicamp, Haynesworth is having an adverse effect on the team's training camp.

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