Albert Haynesworth will learn Redskins new defense from sidelines until he passes conditioning test

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 1, 2010; D01

Through the first three days of training camp, Albert Haynesworth has lined up against trash bins. He's run alone in the mornings and pedaled a stationary bike while his teammates have hit the practice field. His on-field work has been limited to tutorial sessions with defensive coaches.

Whenever Haynesworth is allowed to rejoin his teammates during practice, he'll have a lot of catching up to do, his teammates and coaches say. The Washington Redskins began installing their new defense in April, which means Haynesworth isn't simply three days behind his teammates, like a training camp holdout might be; he's more than three months behind.

Haynesworth skipped Coach Mike Shanahan's conditioning test on Saturday morning because of swelling in his knee -- "There's a setback already," Shanahan said -- which means the defensive tackle has missed the first five practices of camp. Haynesworth will not be allowed to practice with the team until he's passed the conditioning test.

But there is a sense of urgency in trying to bring him up to speed, and Haynesworth was more visibly involved in the team's preparations on Saturday, even spending the entire afternoon "jog-through" session on the field, watching his teammates and studying the team's new 3-4 defense up close.

"Even though he's not out there in pads, he's still getting a lot of work in," Shanahan said.

That's essential because his teammates, who've spent the past three months learning the scheme, say adjusting to the new defense takes time.

"The sooner he can get that situated and get out here, the better," said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "Right now, he's doing us no good just being inside or wherever, trying to get back out here. We just need him out here. I want him to learn this defense and help us out."

Because of the swelling in Haynesworth's knee, coaches weren't sure if he would be ready to attempt the test again Sunday morning. Either way, they're making sure he's doing as much as possible -- short of taking the field with his teammates.

General Manager Bruce Allen said he feels no frustration with the way the Haynesworth drama is playing out.

"He's learning a lot right now in meetings and other activities," Allen said, "so it's working fine."

Haynesworth visited Saturday's morning practice to observe the early walk-through portions of the session. He also returned to the field after practice to work with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and defensive line coach Jacob Burney. That session lasted about 30 minutes, longer than the amount of time Haynesworth spent on the field the previous two days.

Haynesworth spent the entirety of the afternoon session on the field observing the scheme, as well.

Shanahan said Haynesworth has been able to get mental reps of the new scheme, sitting through three to four hours of meetings in the afternoons and evenings.

"So he's getting a chance to see what we're doing both in the classroom and on the football field," Shanahan said.

Without Haynesworth, the Redskins have been fielding a first-team defensive line that consists of defensive ends Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston and nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu. The second-team line has featured Daniels and Vonnie Holliday at defensive end and Howard Bryant at nose tackle.

While it's still not clear at which position Haynesworth will eventually spend the bulk of his time, he'll likely see action at both defensive end and nose tackle. That means learning two new positions, which could mean an even slower learning curve than some teammates.

Others who've made the adjustment from the 4-3 defense say the biggest change is technique.

"I can't think of anybody who's used to getting off the ball in a 4-3 and now, all of a sudden, you're supposed to read, you're supposed to do this and that," Carriker said. "It's just a matter of doing reps, getting used to it, getting used to the different blocks."

Even though Haynesworth is learning some of the concepts, players say it's essential to actually run through the motions on the field to appreciate the new assignments.

"I think it's more working with the guys next to you," said Kemoeatu. "That all 11 guys know what they're doing and going in the same direction -- who's got what gaps. In a 3-4, it can get confusing, but if everyone knows what they're doing, it should be fine."

And there's nothing that can duplicate actually putting a hand in the grass. While players are happy to see Haynesworth studying the system, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said Haynesworth might not really start to grasp the concepts "until he gets out here and actually runs it game-speed."

"Just because it's so fast now," he said. "Learning the new defense, the 3-4 did take a while for the other linemen to learn. But today he had a chance to come out here, at least look at us do it through walk-throughs and stuff."

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