The Washington Redskins' decision to cut ties with Albert Haynesworth ends the drama

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 11:20 PM

The Washington Redskins' decision Tuesday to suspend defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth for the remainder of the season without pay was a logical conclusion to one of owner Daniel Snyder's most illogical player-personnel moves.

By severing ties with Haynesworth, Coach Mike Shanahan reaffirmed his grip on the organization - providing the most powerful example to date of his authority - and signaled a symbolic end to Snyder's way of building a team. Regardless of the outcome of the inevitable appeal, Haynesworth appears to have played his final game for the Redskins less than two years after Snyder lured him to Washington - over the objections of some on the football staff - with a contract that included a then-record $41 million in guaranteed money.

Players had grown weary of the ongoing Shanahan-Haynesworth dust-ups and were eager for closure.

"The drama is over with," defensive lineman-linebacker Andre Carter said.

Although Shanahan did not specifically mention Haynesworth's status while addressing the team Monday after Sunday's embarrassing 31-7 loss to the New York Giants, it seemed clear to some in the room that Shanahan was alluding to Haynesworth in saying players could be judged as much on character as they are on talent.

Shanahan listed Haynesworth as inactive against the Giants because of the poor effort he displayed last week in preparation for the game, multiple people familiar with the situation said. The decision renewed frustration in the locker room that the team's top football official and Haynesworth were still at odds nearing the end of Washington's third straight disappointing season.

After years when mixed messages at Redskins Park left players wondering whether the owner or the coach was setting the agenda, Shanahan's message should especially resonate.

In the future, if players consider skipping Shanahan's "voluntary" offseason workouts, they'll think about Haynesworth. If they have problems with the team's schemes, they'll remember Haynesworth. And if they are just frustrated in general with the coaching staff, weather, or lunch menu at Redskins Park, well, what happened to Haynesworth? The nine-year veteran's 2010 season will serve as a Redskins cautionary tale.

Obviously, Shanahan and his top lieutenant, General Manager Bruce Allen, have been building a case against Haynesworth since the offseason, seeking ways to recoup some of the $21 million bonus the two-time all-pro player received in April. A statement attributed to Shanahan in the team's news release cited Haynesworth's repeated refusal "to cooperate with our coaching staff in a variety of ways over an extended period of time" among the reasons disciplinary action was necessary.

There were reports Tuesday that Haynesworth could be in danger of losing all or part of his most recent bonus payment. But that's highly unlikely, according to three people familiar with the collective bargaining agreement's forfeiture language.

With the suspension - the maximum a team can give a player for conduct detrimental to the team - the Redskins likely have prevented Haynesworth from getting another payday this season.

Had the Redskins released him and he cleared waivers, Haynesworth would have been free to sign with any team.

Despite his problems with Shanahan, Haynesworth has shown flashes of the talent that made him the top player in the 2009 free-agent class, prompting Snyder to overlook the glaring needs along the offensive line that offseason to sign a player who also was a bad fit for Washington's previous 4-3 scheme.

A contender probably would have pursued Haynesworth for a postseason run.

There's a chance the appeal process won't be completed by the end of the regular season. The Redskins still retain Haynesworth's rights.

To be sure, though, the Shanahan-Haynesworth relationship is on the fast track to a divorce. Shanahan chose not to trade Haynesworth because he did not receive a trade offer he wanted, but it is widely believed in the NFL that the Redskins have no choice but to eventually release Haynesworth, a former league executive and a NFC assistant coach said recently.

During a lengthy interview Monday night, Haynesworth said he planned to finish the season strong and "show everybody I'm still that same player who can dominate. I just have to play."

Very soon, he'll likely get a chance to prove himself again elsewhere.

As for the Redskins, Snyder's willingness to accept an almost $35-million loss at Shanahan's apparent insistence makes it clear the franchise's fortunes, for better or for worse, are clearly in the head coach's hands.

"I like Al, and a lot of guys like Al, but Coach Shanahan runs this now," cornerback Carlos Rogers said.

"It's not the way it used to be around here, and that's just the way it is."

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