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Albert Haynesworth's disappointing performance in Washington Redskins' preseason finale affects his status for opener

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2010; 12:27 AM

A disappointing performance by Albert Haynesworth in the Washington Redskins' preseason finale has renewed concerns about the Pro Bowler's commitment to the team and apparently has affected his status for the regular season opener against Dallas, three people familiar with the situation said Saturday.

Haynesworth was "awful" Thursday during the Cardinals' 20-10 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium, said two of the team sources who recently reviewed game film. It often appeared he gave little effort while participating in 49 of the Redskins' 55 defensive plays. On the few occasions he did play hard, the two sources said, Haynesworth failed to adhere to the principles of the new 3-4 scheme. He was credited with four tackles, including three unassisted.

All three sources indicated that Coach Mike Shanahan has lost his patience with the ongoing Haynesworth drama. During practice at Redskins Park on Saturday, Haynesworth took part in very few plays, one of the sources said. He was moved back to nose tackle - he had been working primarily at right end recently - and removed from the nickel package.

Considering Saturday's developments, it is highly unlikely Haynesworth would be named a starter for the opener, all of the sources said. The Redskins play host to the Cowboys, their NFC East rivals, Sept. 12 at FedEx Field. Redskins defensive coaches have worked hard to help Haynesworth prepare to play right end this season, but the situation is unsettled again after Haynesworth's poor showing in the desert.

Speaking on behalf of Shanahan, team spokesman Tony Wyllie declined to comment about Haynesworth. "Mike will address questions on Monday," Wyllie wrote in response to an e-mail.

This turn in the Shanahan-Haynesworth saga was unexpected. The two men seemed to turn a page recently, burying the animosity that began when Haynesworth refused to attend offseason workouts and a mandatory minicamp. Haynesworth started at right end in the nickel package and played extensively in the Week 3 preseason victory over the New York Jets.

Afterward, an upbeat Haynesworth joked with reporters about saving Shanahan from an errant ball and having cigars and drinks at Shanahan's house. But Haynesworth, a nine-year veteran, appeared frustrated about playing the entire game against Arizona.

When approached by a reporter after the game, Haynesworth said, "I have no comment."

The Redskins could assign Haynesworth to the inactive list against Dallas, or have him active and hold him out, but that could hurt the defense, two of the sources acknowledged. Although Haynesworth has stirred controversy since the offseason, he still is considered among the NFL's top defensive players.

Haynesworth often commands a double-team, freeing others to make plays. His presence on the field during the preseason, even while he was learning the defense, clearly helped his teammates at times.

People close to Haynesworth on the team insist he would play hard against the Cowboys. The Redskins are better with Haynesworth on the field, two of his teammates said Saturday, adding they hope Shanahan views the situation similarly.

But Shanahan runs the football operation, so it will be his decision alone on how to use the two-time All-Pro performer. Shanahan may seek input from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who has been supportive of Haynesworth. But Haslett is among Shanahan's most loyal lieutenants.

Owner Daniel Snyder guaranteed Haynesworth $41 million in the contract Haynesworth signed in February 2009. Haynesworth, who played in 12 games last season, already has been paid $32 million - including a $21 million bonus on April 1.

reidj@washpost.com

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