Day before training camp begins, Albert Haynesworth enters Redskins Park for first time since March 15

By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff WriterS
Thursday, July 29, 2010; D01

Disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth walked through the doors of Redskins Park on Wednesday for the first time in more than four months, meeting with coaches and attempting to thaw the frigid relationship that has developed between the team and its most highly paid player.

Though Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said his morning meeting with Haynesworth "went well," he was noncommittal when it came to Haynesworth's future in Washington.

Players are scheduled to report to Redskins Park on Thursday, and training camp will officially open with an afternoon practice. It wasn't clear, though, whether Haynesworth would participate. Shanahan said Haynesworth, who, according to people familiar with his training, has lost as much as 40 pounds this offseason, must pass a conditioning test before he can join his teammates for drills. Even then, Shanahan said, Haynesworth will practice with reserves, not with the first-team defense.

Haynesworth's future beyond the next couple of days is equally unclear. Asked whether he anticipated Haynesworth being a part of the team when the regular season begins, Shanahan responded, "Well, we'll see."

"All I can do is tell you that we're going to give him every opportunity to show us what he can do," Shanahan said. "Hopefully, he'll like the position that we play him in and give us everything that he's got."

The standoff between player and team actually had cooled in recent weeks. Haynesworth met face-to-face with Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on Wednesday, the first time he had done so since informing Shanahan on March 15 that he would skip the team's offseason workout program. But he had been speaking regularly with teammates, and recently connected with Haslett, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Haslett and Haynesworth have been communicating recently in phone conversations and through text messages and have had several productive exchanges, the sources said. At a luncheon Wednesday, Haslett declined to comment on his private conversations with Haynesworth.

"That's for Mike to talk about," Haslett said.

The sources said Haynesworth, realizing the Redskins probably would not trade him as he had requested, reached out to Haslett in an effort to ease his return to the organization.

"I was very pleased with his mind-set and where he was coming from," Shanahan said after his meeting with Haynesworth. "What I expected from him as a football player both on and off the football field. The conversation went well and now we'll get a chance to see exactly where we're at in the near future."

Shanahan was cautious, however, and though he said Haynesworth appeared to be in good physical shape Wednesday, the head coach is curious to see how he looks on the field.

"It's easy to talk the game, but we'll see what he does in practice and see what type of shape he's in and how committed he is and all the things we've talked about over the last couple of months," Shanahan said. "But he's here, he's ready to go, he looks in good shape and so we'll get a chance to find out here very quickly."

Haynesworth remained at the facility for several hours Wednesday, leaving after 3 p.m. and didn't respond to a message seeking comment.

Shanahan and his top lieutenant are only two of the hurdles the defensive tackle faces. Several teammates also directed sharp words at Haynesworth when he skipped the team's mandatory minicamp last month. There's also a new defensive scheme to learn and a new position coach to woo.

Defensive line coach Jacob Burney doesn't seem worried. He met Haynesworth just once -- during the player's March visit to Redskins Park -- but wouldn't mind spending more time with him during camp.

"All those other things, whatever," Burney said. "When they're on the field, when they're in the room, we're all in there together, we're all pulling the same weight."

The team will have to figure out exactly where Haynesworth will line up. Haynesworth might be feeling more comfortable because of Maake Kemoeatu's presence on the roster. Kemoeatu sat out the 2009 season because of an Achilles' injury and is expected to be nearly fully recovered as camp opens. Kemoeatu, an effective player during his years with the Carolina Panthers, is a starting-caliber NFL nose tackle and could allow Haynesworth to spend more time at defensive end.

While Haynesworth will be a hot topic in the camp's initial days, there are several other story lines that will draw attention these next several weeks. Many will focus Thursday afternoon on left tackle Trent Williams -- if he shows up.

Williams is the lone Redskin who has yet to sign a contract. His agent and the team continued talks Wednesday and both sides were hopeful a deal could be struck before the first practice begins.

Coaches and fans alike will also pay close attention to key position battles: defensive end, outside linebacker and safety on defense; and running back, No. 2 wide receiver and tight end on the offensive side.

At the center of much of it will be quarterback Donovan McNabb, who likens his excitement for this year's training camp to his first one as a rookie in 1999.

"That's the attitude that I want people to have. Not just in that locker room, but all in the area, all in the D.C. area," McNabb said Tuesday. "I want people to understand that we're going to give all that we have. Four-and-12 [record] is over, that's in the past. We're looking for good things to happen this year, and to happen right now."

Redskins Note: Cornerback Carlos Rogers confirmed via text message that he will sign his one-year, $1.54 million tender offer and practice Thursday.

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