Haynesworth says his illness wasn't hangover

By Barry Svrluga and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; D05

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that he will meet one-on-one with defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth before the team resumes practice Wednesday, but declined to address the future of Haynesworth - who on Monday night offered his own defense of his behavior.

Haynesworth disputed a report that he arrived at Friday's practice hung over after a night of partying Thursday.

"I was not hung over," Haynesworth said in a phone interview. "I mean, I did go out, but when I started feeling bad I went home. I mean, I go out every Thursday or so. . . .

"Just because somebody goes out, that doesn't mean I'm out drinking and getting drunk. I've been in this game for nine years and been single, or without a wife, for a lot of that time. The bottom line is I wasn't hung over or anything like that. I want to make that clear."

Haynesworth's dispute with a Comcast SportsNet report concluded another day of drama surrounding the player who, just 20 months ago, was signed to a contract that could pay him as much as $100 million. Shanahan's impending meeting with Haynesworth follows the coach's decision to bench him before Sunday's 31-7 loss to the New York Giants because, Shanahan said, Haynesworth had practiced poorly on Thursday and was ill on Friday.

"Before I go into any detail about Albert, I'll sit down and talk to Albert and address it with [the media] on Wednesday," Shanahan said.

Twelve games into a season that will almost certainly end with the Redskins out of the playoffs, Haynesworth's relationship with Shanahan has once again become the dominant theme of the coach's first year in Washington. The Redskins showed in Sunday's loss, the second divisional game in less than a month in which they weren't competitive, that they have countless problems to address headed into 2011. Yet all were overshadowed by the fact that Shanahan declared Haynesworth inactive prior to the kickoff against the Giants.

"I just wish that the team could stay focused and not worry about things like this," veteran defensive lineman Phillip Daniels said Monday. "When I come to the locker room on game day, I expect guys to be ready to go and play. I don't expect to get a surprise on game day that [someone's] not playing. . .

"We need to move forward, man, and the only way this team's going to move forward is get stuff like this out the way, and we all can focus and do the things we need to do on game day."

Haynesworth initially declined requests to talk about his status Monday, but took exception to the notion that his personal behavior affected his status for the game. A manager at the restaurant where Haynesworth acknowledged spending part of Thursday evening declined to comment Monday.

"Everybody wants to say whatever they want, just to try to speculate about why I didn't play," Haynesworth said in the phone interview. "Heck, I was sick before the game last week [against Minnesota]. Does that mean that I was hung over or something like that? I mean, I didn't even go anywhere. But I was hung over, right?

"Everybody's just speculating and trying to say negative stuff about me. But they really need to look at what's the most important thing. I'm here, supposedly, to help this organization win games. And right now, we're not doing that. We're not putting the best players on the field to win games."

Both publicly and in a team meeting, Shanahan disputed that notion. At his afternoon news conference, Shanahan said assembling the team that gives the Redskins the best chance of winning each week is his top priority.

"What you try to do as a head football coach, you try to do what you think is in the best interest of the team to give your team the best chance to win, and you evaluate everything," Shanahan said. "There's a lot involved. . . . It all depends on what the scenario is at the time."

And according to sources who attended the coach's meeting with the team Monday, Shanahan did not single out Haynesworth by name, but he said players could be judged as much on character as they are on talent.

Shanahan said Monday that he did not "know exactly what [Haynesworth's] illness was." But during the portion of Friday's workout that was open to the media, Haynesworth appeared uninterested and lackadaisical. As other members of the team stretched as a group, Haynesworth walked slowly in line with his teammates, but rarely stretched or warmed up.

Several high-ranking team sources said Redskins officials are, again, frustrated by Haynesworth's apparent lack of commitment - and players are starting to express that frustration publicly.

"If you ain't all in, you don't need to be here," Daniels said. "I'm tired of going through season after season where we lose games we should win, guys not doing the right thing, guys not putting the effort in. I'm tired of that.

"The Redskins, we deserve better as a team and as fans. . . Guys have to believe in what [Shanahan is] doing. If you don't believe in what he's doing, then you don't need to be here."

Shanahan would not address whether Haynesworth was in danger of being released, nor did he divulge what he planned to discuss with Haynesworth in coming days. But whatever his future with the team, the nine-year veteran, who has played in 20 of the Redskins' 28 games since he signed with the club, insisted he can still help Washington win.

"We're not putting the highest-paid guy, and a guy I think is one of the best defensive tackles in the game, on the field to try to help us win games," Haynesworth said. "They've got me sitting on the bench. So they're just trying to slander my name to say whatever they want, but we all know what the real truth is."

svrlugab@washpost.com reidj@washpost.com

Staff writer Dan Steinberg contributed to this report.

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