Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan should be the bigger man in the Albert Haynesworth saga

By Mike Wise
Saturday, July 24, 2010; D01

The benevolent people of Ashburn have already doled out $32 million of a guaranteed $41 million to the ingrate and, unfair as it may sound, now have to give more.

Don't misunderstand.

Given the past few months, if the Redskins tell Albert Haynesworth to hand-wash Colt Brennan's athletic supporter and hang it out to dry in the 400 section of FedEx Field on game day -- using the zigzag ramps, not the elevators -- he should feel honored and reach for the Woolite.

But that's not reality. The reality is they need to make this work. And the person who needs to compromise now might not be Big Al.

People close to Haynesworth have told The Post that the two-time All-Pro defensive lineman is in shape. They say he will report to camp on time next week. They also say he is still not happy about having to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. But he understands this is the hand dealt in a regime change, that he has no choice but to go back to work.

Mike Shanahan, your move.

The biggest wild card emerging days before Thursday's inaugural Camp Shanny is not whether a $100 million malcontent wants to be here. (Haynesworth has wanted out for months. If he could hold out and keep his money he probably would.) The game-changer is how Shanahan deals with the $100 million malcontent.

And if My-Way Mike knows what's good for him, he will bend.

He doesn't have to cave. He doesn't even have to meet Haynesworth halfway. But he needs to show he isn't just interested in making Haynesworth's life miserable in the steam and humidity of August in Ashburn.

No matter how furious Shanahan is over one of the most dominant defensive players in the game shunning offseason workouts -- after taking a $21 million bonus check on April 1 and then essentially separating from the organization as if he was in a bad marriage -- the coach has to put part of his effusive pride aside and realize the truth:

A hungry, healthy and apparently slimmed-down Albert makes the Redskins a much more formidable team, even if he doesn't like the position he's playing.

If Haynesworth lives up to his end of the collective bargaining agreement -- and with the exception of one mandatory practice missed last month, believe it or not he has -- Shanahan has to know that giving a 300 pound-plus wayward soul an honest opportunity at redemption is good for everyone.

Mostly Mike Shanahan.

If the coach's goal is to win in the next two to three years and further his post-John Elway legacy, a period in which he's only won one playoff game, Shanahan needs Haynesworth now.

If his goal is to turn the team over at some juncture to his 30-year-old son, Kyle, the team's new whiz-kid offensive coordinator, Haynesworth makes sense. Irrespective of whether he wants to play in the middle of the muck or not, taking on three behemoths while Andre Carter and the linebackers grab quarterback-crushing glory, Haynesworth instantly makes that defense markedly better.

Yes, indigestion instantly forms in the innards as these words are typed. Yes, in any similar employee-employer relationship in this country, that big, ol' Cosby kid whose co-workers publicly said he let them down would be out of work and replaced by someone who actually wanted the job.

But there is nothing similar. The NFL is a special business. Haynesworth is a special player.

By working out on his own and reportedly dropping 30-plus pounds, by coming to terms he is not going anywhere soon and showing up to training camp, Big Al is getting off the couch and turning off the TV. He is trying.

Now it's up to the type-A taskmaster who wanted things done yesterday. He has to give enough that Haynesworth has hope he won't become a scapegoat.

If Shanahan is willing to try, training camp might as well be couples therapy for the two strongest personalities of the Redskins' offseason. Animosity aside, they would be staying together for the good of the family.

If Shanahan can't do it for himself, do it for Daniel Snyder, whose 10 years of paying premium rates for someone else's stars has never looked like a more ill-conceived strategy.

On the surface, it's insane for Shanahan to bend. After all, the not-exactly svelte guy who signed the richest contract in NFL history for a defensive player just 18 months ago tried to force a trade after a 4-12 season in which he played just 12 games, during many of which he appeared in need of a juice box and a nap.

Then he took a front-loaded, $21 million portion of his contract this spring with the caveat he perform the tasks his new bosses asked of him. And he not only failed to show up for work, he actually never wanted to perform his duties to begin with.

But this is where we are today. Big Al has apparently done some genuine offseason work and conditioning. They're not trading him; he gets it. In body and mind, people close to Haynesworth have said, he will be present Thursday.

Regardless of how angry Shanahan is, all he has to do is look at the film. When he wants to play, Haynesworth is a monster truck in cleats. And even though he played in just 12 games, he took the second-most snaps of any defensive lineman other than Carter.

Now that Albert Haynesworth has made it interesting -- instead of continuing to play Everybody's Favorite Sloth to Pick On -- this is squarely, if surprisingly, on Mike Shanahan.

Is the coach now willing to put his ego aside for the betterment of the franchise?

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