Will Haynesworth and Redskins make it work?

Jason Reid
Wednesday, October 20, 2010;

The NFL trading deadline passed Tuesday and Albert Haynesworth remained with the Washington Redskins. Barring some unforeseen development that would prompt the Redskins to release Haynesworth, their shaky union will exist for the rest of the 2010 season.

Now what?

Together for at least another 10 games in the regular season and more if Washington qualifies for the playoffs, the Redskins and Haynesworth will keep trying to make it work. As the events of last week showed, however, nothing is simple when it involves Coach Mike Shanahan's decisions about Haynesworth.

The Redskins face another key portion of their schedule after a surprisingly strong start, and Haynesworth apparently wants to help. Shanahan is all about winning. That seems to be common ground they both could build upon. Of course, that hasn't seemed to help much to this point.

"Coach Shanahan, obviously, wants us to win as many football games as we can," inside linebacker London Fletcher said earlier this week. "Obviously, Albert's a very talented player. Coach Shanahan wants his best football players on the field. So, of course, he wants to have Albert out there in the best possible situation because of his ability to be a difference-maker."

Fletcher's theory was tested when Shanahan decided to hold Haynesworth out of Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Shanahan determined that Haynesworth was not physically or mentally prepared to play after his six-day team-approved absence, which was prompted by the death of his younger brother in a motorcycle accident.

Haynesworth also missed the Week 5 victory over the Green Bay Packers. He has played in only three of the team's six games (he missed one game because of an ankle injury).

Haynesworth's mental state after suffering the tragedy was among Shanahan's main concerns, "and there's a lot of things that were weighed in that evaluation," Shanahan said. "It's not just based on what's best for our football team. Sometimes it's based on what's in the best interest of him."

Approached by a reporter on Monday, Haynesworth declined to be interviewed. In the days leading up to Sunday's game, though, Haynesworth told teammates he was ready and eager to face the Colts and star quarterback Peyton Manning, whom Haynesworth enjoyed competing against twice a season when he played for the Tennessee Titans.

"He wanted to get back out there and practice and play, and that's one of the things that he stressed," defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon said. "I talked to him while he was back in Nashville and back in South Carolina, and he told me the same thing when he got back. He wished he could be out there with us."

Provided with a Redskins private jet for his family's use, Haynesworth rejoined the team on Thursday, a day after the game plan for the Colts was installed. Shanahan last week told reporters that Haynesworth would be a game-time decision, and Shanahan on Monday declined to reveal when he made his decision.

But Shanahan apparently informed Haynesworth on Thursday he would not play against the Colts, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. One possible explanation is that Shanahan, at least in part, was not pleased that Haynesworth returned a day after the work week began for players. Another possibility is that Shanahan didn't want to risk injuring Haynesworth in case he was able to pull off a last-minute trade for the lineman. The NFL trade deadline passed Tuesday at 4 p.m.

"I don't know what coach Shanahan's reason was for keeping him out of the game," said Fletcher, the defensive captain. "That's something that coach made a decision to do. And that's just the way it is."

Against the highly effective Colts pass attack, the Redskins used dime defensive alignments, which call for six defensive backs, on 60 of 68 plays. Jarmon and defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday were used in a role that Haynesworth also could have filled well, players said.

"Their guards are actually really undersized guys, so he'd have probably blown them back a couple of times" and pressured Manning, outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "And he knows Peyton probably better than anybody out there."

In the Week 4 victory over Philadelphia, Haynesworth had his best performance since the Redskins moved to a 3-4 defensive scheme. He was credited with four unassisted tackles and made an impact in the 17-12 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.

Haynesworth, however, has only six tackles and no sacks this season. Although interior linemen should not be judged on statistics alone, one would assume owner Daniel Snyder expected more production from Haynesworth in the second season of a record-setting contract that paid him $32 million after one season.

Some in the organization acknowledge that the two-time all-pro, who is earning another $3.6 million this season, simply is not a good fit for Washington's 3-4 approach. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has tried to help Haynesworth become as comfortable as possible, but it seems Haynesworth is still without a defined role in Week 7.

Washington faces the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. Haynesworth could be actively involved in the game plan because the Bears, by NFL standards, do not have physically imposing offensive guards. Haynesworth's size and strength could be a major advantage.

After playing at Detroit in Week 8, the Redskins begin their bye week. They finish the season with eight consecutive games, four of them against NFC East opponents Philadelphia, Dallas and New York (twice).

Haynesworth still could play a big part in what may be an unexpectedly successful season for Washington.

"I really don't know what's going on with that situation with him and management, but I'm just hoping it gets put to bed here soon and he can just play," Alexander said. "He's here, and he's one of our best players, so he just needs to play."

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