By Mike Wise
Friday, July 30, 2010; D01
Quarantined from teammates like a dog who had yet to receive his heartworm inoculation, made to go over defensive drills in the far corner of the practice field after the "cleared" players finished, the large, exhausted man trudged off the soggy field with a slight grimace, up the walkway toward the locker room.
Sopping wet in his gray nylon long-sleeve shirt, he finally acknowledged the crowd shouting his name behind the ropes.
"We love you, Albert!" someone yelled. He raised his hand in a mock wave just in time to hear the retort. "We'd love you more if you lose 10 more pounds."
In that moment, Albert Haynesworth wasn't the highest-paid player on the Washington Redskins, a two-time Pro Bowler and established veteran. He looked beaten, broken -- closer to a humiliated and hazed rookie, duct tape and goal post to come.
Uncle. He gives.
Now move along, kids. There's nothing to see here.
Someone find DeAngelo Hall to take his friend to the nurse's office.
Albert Haynesworth, dared by Mike Shanahan to meet him behind the cafeteria before school, got his be-hind kicked royally Thursday.
The new kid in school essentially found the biggest bully on the playground, called him out, embarrassed him in front of the whole class -- and ushered in an era of striking clarity in Ashburn.
Don't mess with Coach Control. Don't toy with Serious Shanny. He doesn't get mad beneath that perpetually sunburned mug; Mike gets even.
The No. 1 offseason distraction was made to run and sweat and run and sweat some more Thursday, until, we were told, Big Al didn't pass a conditioning test he was guaranteed to fail. For showing up the organization in the offseason -- for originally wanting out of Washington, then taking $21 million of Daniel Snyder's money in a front-loaded bonus and, incredibly, failing to show up for workouts -- Haynesworth was publicly disciplined and punished.
Administered a test no one else on his team had to take, he was held up for inspection as if he were Kirstie Alley bragging to Oprah about a new diet. Now it was time to step on the scale and prove the cellulite rolls were gone.
He reportedly gassed out and asked for a bathroom break during his second 300-yard shuttle sprint. When he returned, Big Al was told to start over. Though Shanahan denied trading words afterward, adding that Haynesworth was "first-class, all the way," there was real evidence that a possible exchange went something like this.
Haynesworth: I'm not gonna quit. You won't make me quit, Sgt. Foley.
Shanahan: I want your D.O.R., Mayo-naise! You ain't fit to be a Naval aviator. Oh, yeah, I heard about your father in the Philippines.
Look, I don't know if the coach went "Officer and a Gentleman" on the player, and surely Big Al will not be playing the part of Richard Gere anytime soon.
I do know that those shuttle sprints -- in which a player runs as fast and hard as he can between 25-yard markers for a predetermined distance, in this case 300 yards -- did not represent a proving ground for Haynesworth. Those sprints on that field were a microscope slide holding a man listed at 350 pounds on the official roster.
It's time to stop poking and prodding him, seeing if he will break. Point taken. Message received. Don't rub the guy's nose in it any more, lest you risk the chance of losing him just as he was coming back to the fold.
Change has been apparent for months. Shanahan is in charge. Donovan McNabb wants to lead. Bruce Allen doesn't want anybody who ever played here disenfranchised.
But something felt depressingly the same in Ashburn on Thursday as Haynesworth slowly walked off the field. The spectacle of someone doing something wrong had returned.
Sherm Lewis had not exactly been plucked from a Bingo hall and made the offensive coordinator. But the circus was in full swing again, and is that really how they want to start things off with this new era?
Haynesworth showed up at 7:30 a.m. Most of his teammates arrived at 9 a.m. He knew this day was coming, and he probably understood that he had to take his medicine or further face the wrath of a man who has no patience for prima donnas who take millions and don't work for it.
But at what point do they take the dunce cap off? How long does the wayward one have to wait before he is allowed to return to the flock?
Two more days of failed conditioning tests that his non-skill position teammates could not pass? Three?
"You've got to pass the test," Shanahan said after practice. "Is it going to happen? Is there going to be a setback tomorrow? Will he make it tomorrow? I can't tell you."
A minute later, Shanahan began to bristle at the incessant Haynesworth questioning. Enough Albert, he said, adding: "I think he understands where I'm coming from."
Yes, he does. It's from a place of vindication, for all the headaches Haynesworth caused his new boss the last few months, for all the perceived insubordination and unneeded annoyance.
But now the bully's nose has been bloodied and he knows he's not bigger and badder than everyone at school. Let him be. It's time for the humbled kid to go back to home room and rejoin his class.
Indeed, enough Albert.