By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2010; D01
"Enough about Albert," he said, as similar-sounding queries about defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth began producing similar-sounding answers.
But in perhaps the biggest sign that a thaw might be near in the strained relationship between Haynesworth and the team, Shanahan conceded that Haynesworth could return to the practice field without first passing his mandatory conditioning test if the current situation drags on.
"Possibly," Shanahan said. "You'll just have to stick around."
Haynesworth made his third attempt at the test before the team's training camp practice Monday morning. But because of lingering irritation in his knee, he completed just 75 of the 300 yards of the first sprint. Because he failed to complete the test -- much less pass it -- he missed his seventh and eighth practices of training camp Monday, though he was present for all of both sessions.
Haynesworth skipped the test on Saturday and Sunday because of swelling in his knee. The joint has became a concern, and Shanahan said that even if Haynesworth had passed the test a week ago, the knee problem would have prevented him from practicing the past few days.
"It's like somebody spraining an ankle," Shanahan said. "You sprain an ankle and you can't run, you can't run and you can't practice. Just like if you're knee's bothering you and you can't go out there and run, you can't practice."
As the drama surrounding Haynesworth's conditioning test stretches into a sixth day, there are people within the organization and close to Haynesworth who privately expressed doubt that Haynesworth will be able to pass the test anytime soon -- with or without a healthy knee.
Shanahan, however, said he's confident that Haynesworth eventually will post the required times in the two sprints. "He's a fast guy," Shanahan said. "He did very good the first time. He did it easily."
Haynesworth's best performance on the sprint was still his initial run last Thursday -- the lone time he completed a repetition in the allotted time.
Because he missed all but one day of the team's offseason conditioning program, Haynesworth is required to complete two 300-yard shuttle sprints -- the first in 70 seconds or less and the second in 73 seconds or less. He's allowed a 3 1/2 -minute break between runs. The sprints are broken into 25-yard out-and-back increments; Haynesworth must run 25 yards, touch his foot on a line and sprint 25 yards back until he has reached the 300-yard mark.
Last Thursday, Haynesworth passed the first run but needed a restroom break before the second. He had to restart the test and was too tired to post a passing time.
The next morning, Haynesworth was too slow on the first sprint, and he didn't attempt another run until Monday because of swelling in his knee. Arriving at Redskins Park before most of his teammates for a fifth day in a row, Haynesworth hit the field early to test out his knee, accompanied by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright and the head athletic trainer, Larry Hess.
Haynesworth completed two 25-yard turns, but on the third pass, his knee was bothering him too much. "He was doing well," Shanahan said. "He was running really well and had to stop."
Shanahan said he could allow Haynesworth to put on pads at some point, but while the knee pain lingers coaches can't consider allowing him to hit the field.
"That's one of the reasons he's not out there practicing with the team. You got to be in certain shape to go through a practice," Shanahan said. "That knee after three sprints, back and forth, couldn't go any further. Hopefully with treatment, it gets better, he gets in football shape and he's out there and ready to play with his teammates."
While coaches obviously want Haynesworth to pass the test, they need him healthy in general. The more time that passes before he can practice, the more he's missing, as his teammates learn the new defensive scheme without him.
Haynesworth has continued to work with coaches after practice, learning the finer points of his pending assignments in the new scheme. In these sessions, Haynesworth has spent considerable time studying the right defensive end spot, though coaches also have discussed nose tackle responsibilities with him.
But when the team is actually running plays on the field and squaring off with the offense, Haynesworth is relegated to the sidelines, wearing his jersey and a cap, but no pads. Without Haynesworth, the first-team defensive line has featured Adam Carriker at left end, Maake Kemoeatu at nose tackle and Kedric Golston at right end. Carriker and Kemoeatu both missed all of last season with injuries, but Shanahan said he's pleased with what he's seen from both so far.
"Until you actually put the pads on and do football-related drills, you don't know for sure," Shanahan said. "But both guys have done exceptionally well. Hopefully, they just keep on getting better."