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Albert Haynesworth era ends for Washington Redskins, who suspend him without pay for rest of regular season

By Rick Maese and Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 1:32 AM

Albert Haynesworth came to Washington with a promise.

"You're not going to remember Albert Haynesworth as a bust," he said on Feb. 27, 2009, the day the Washington Redskins made him the highest-paid professional football player at that time. "You're going to remember me as a great player."

Haynesworth certainly will be remembered in Washington for years to come, but mostly for the turmoil that seemed to surround him at all times, and not for his performance on the field.

The Redskins suspended the disgruntled defensive lineman Tuesday without pay for the remainder of the regular season, citing conduct detrimental to the team. That move likely brings to a close the calamitous Haynesworth chapter in the Redskins annals.

Unable to coexist with Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, Haynesworth was informed of the decision in a meeting Tuesday morning with General Manager Bruce Allen at Redskins Park.

"Let's be honest," Shanahan said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening. "This is an easy decision. This isn't even hard. When I get rid of a guy, I do it because it's in the best interest of the team, and I consider everybody."

The decision capped months of drama that has surrounded the team since shortly after Shanahan, who has two Super Bowl rings as a head coach and doesn't cede control often or suffer malcontents gladly, arrived in town in January. Haynesworth boycotted offseason workouts, skipped a mandatory minicamp, requested a trade, repeatedly failed the team's conditioning test and resisted coaches' efforts to change his position and role on the defensive line.

Haynesworth's suspension comes near the end of yet another lost season, one that began with considerable optimism prompted by an overhaul of the coaching staff and roster, but almost surely will end, yet again, with the Redskins sitting out the playoffs. Haynesworth now joins the list of expensive, marquee free agents who came to the Redskins with much fanfare - safety Adam Archuleta, cornerback Deion Sanders, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and quarterback Jeff George among them - but depart with scant accomplishments, and sometimes much controversy.

That list all but defines the last decade for a franchise that has had seven head coaches since it won its most recent division title in 1999. Haynesworth fits among its most prominent characters.

"Everybody knows how strong-minded he is," linebacker Andre Carter said of Haynesworth. "Everybody knows the issues that were going on from last season to this season. For us, the rest of the players, we just got tired of it."

Shanahan asserted in a statement released through the club - and later in the telephone interview - that Haynesworth disregarded coaches during practice and refused to play in certain situations.

"And the reason he said he doesn't want to play in those situations is, he wants to play in passing situations, not running situations," Shanahan said by phone. "I've never had a player say anything like that to me before."

Haynesworth, 29, is expected to appeal the suspension. A spokesman for the NFL Players Association said Tuesday the union is investigating the matter. Four games is the maximum suspension for conduct detrimental to the team under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the players union.

"The accusations made by Coach Shanahan and Bruce Allen are vague and without merit," Haynesworth's agent, Chad Speck, said in a statement released Tuesday evening.

Haynesworth came to the team as a free agent in February 2009 after playing in two Pro Bowls in his previous seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans. Snyder raised eyebrows across the National Football League when he gave Haynesworth a seven-year contract that could have been worth as much as $115 million and included $41 million in guaranteed money, at the time the most in league history.

"I want to do almost the same thing I did in Tennessee," Haynesworth said then.

But he never did, instead having minimal impact in less than two seasons. He started only 12 games as a Redskin.

If the suspension stands, Haynesworth will lose $847,059. But he's already been paid nearly $35 million by the Redskins in bonus and salary money for playing 20 football games.

The Redskins gave him a $21 million bonus check in April, believed to be the largest check written in NFL history. Because they've cited conduct detrimental to the team, the team could try to recoup some of that money, though precedent suggests they would have a difficult time.

Under the terms of his original contract, Haynesworth was due $5.4 million in 2011, but that money is no longer guaranteed and the Redskins now can release or trade Haynesworth without penalty.

Most of the people who brought Haynesworth on board - executive vice president Vinny Cerrato, coach Jim Zorn and Greg Blache, the team's defensive coordinator - did not survive the fallout from a 4-12 record in 2009. Their replacements - Allen, Shanahan and Jim Haslett, the coordinator charged with transforming the team's defensive philosophy - failed to convert Haynesworth to their new way of doing business.

Upset with the team's offseason defensive changes, which he felt limited his ability to make big, game-changing plays, Haynesworth found himself at odds with Shanahan for the past 11 months. He appeared in only eight of the team's 12 games this season and then only as a role player.

Haynesworth's agent said the team had not formally warned Haynesworth prior to Tuesday's suspension that his actions were unacceptable.

"Since training camp began, today's notice was the first that Albert received informing him that his conduct was not consistent with the 'terms of his contract' as Coach Shanahan claims," Speck said.

The final straw for the organization appeared to be Haynesworth's actions over the past week. Coaches were not pleased with his practice habits last Thursday and Friday. Haynesworth said he was sick. He conceded that he did visit a bar last Thursday night but said it did not affect his practice Friday.

Though the Redskins desperately needed a win Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive, Shanahan benched Haynesworth against the New York Giants, a game Washington lost, 31-7, in embarrassing fashion. Haynesworth said he disagreed with the decision and made his feelings known to Allen on Monday. Shanahan said in his statement that Haynesworth told Allen that he would no longer speak to the coach.

"I've been doing this a long time and one thing you know is you want players committed to your team," Shanahan said by phone. "Playing for each other, and not for themselves."

Haynesworth was credited with 21 tackles and 21/2 sacks in eight games this season. In two years, he totaled 77 tackles and 61/2 sacks.

He also led the team in unwanted attention. He bickered with Zorn during a Christmas Day 2009 practice - from which he was expelled - and occasionally came up lame during games and missed practice time due to a rare condition called rhabdomyolysis. Off the field, he was sued by a Florida exotic dancer who claimed Haynesworth impregnated her.

Shanahan was mostly concerned with Haynesworth's on-field work. After skipping the team's offseason workouts, Haynesworth reported to training camp, during which Shanahan forced him to pass a conditioning test that consisted of two timed 300-yard shuttle sprints. It took Haynesworth 10 days to pass and join his teammates on the practice field. He failed three times, once because a bathroom break took too long.

Players will gather at Redskins Park on Wednesday without Haynesworth to begin preparations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this weekend's opponent. But what Haynesworth gave Washington for 21 months and 20 games - at a cost of millions of dollars to Snyder and countless hours of frustration for fans - won't soon be forgotten.

Staff writers Jason Reid and Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.

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