By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 12:17 AM
With the temperature holding steady in the low-30s, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was bundled up in layers as he walked to the practice field at Redskins Park Wednesday afternoon. Alongside Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, Snyder watched his players race around in the cold, preparing to play a game Sunday without his $100 million chess piece.
By all accounts, Snyder played a significant role in bringing defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth to Washington, encouraging his top lieutenants to reel in the biggest fish in the 2009 free agent pond and extending a contract offer that stunned many in the NFL. According to Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, though, Snyder played no role in the team's decision this week to suspend Haynesworth for the remainder of the season, effectively ending the defensive tackle's tumultuous tenure in Washington after only 20 games.
"Dan's been great to me," Shanahan said Wednesday, addressing the media for the first time since the suspension was announced Tuesday afternoon. "I haven't even discussed the situation with Dan."
Snyder paid Haynesworth nearly $35 million, an investment on which the Redskins saw little return. After 11 months of drama, Shanahan decided Tuesday that he'd had enough and suspended Haynesworth without pay for the final four games of the season.
The NFL Players Association is expected to appeal the suspension, which could cost Haynesworth $847,059. Because there are so few games remaining, Haynesworth's camp would likely seek an expedited appeal, which could prompt a faster ruling from an arbitrator. An expedited appeal, afforded to suspended players under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, would be heard within seven days after a request is filed.
Shanahan explained Wednesday that Haynesworth's alleged insubordination - "he didn't like the base defense, didn't like the nickel defense, didn't want to play nose tackle, he didn't want to play defensive end," the coach said - had reached an unacceptable point in recent days. The veteran head coach said he'd run out of options.
"I've never quite been through a situation like this before," said Shanahan, a football coach for more than 35 years. "And we did it in the best interests of our football team. And now, we go on."
That was a continuing theme around Redskins Park Wednesday. Haynesworth still had a locker full of clothes and athletic equipment, but other Redskins players went about their regular business without him. Defensive captain London Fletcher refused to answer any questions about Haynesworth, and other teammates, many of whom have said for weeks that their defense was better with Haynesworth on the field, expressed some sense of relief that a season-long distraction had been relegated to the suspended list.
"I wouldn't say that it's good that he's gone," said linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. "It's more that the situation is over."
Replacing Haynesworth on the field might not be an especially tall task. He contributed primarily on passing downs and had minimal impact in most Redskins games. While players say he had the potential to wreak havoc, no one was pinning the team's 5-7 record on Haynesworth - as a distraction or as a defensive lineman.
"I never put no thought to whatever going on with him anyway," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "He's not really been no distraction to me. . . . On Sundays when you playing, you know, I'm not out there covering receivers - whether Albert out there or not - thinking about what he's got going on. I'm thinking about what I got to do."
But on most other days, players have had to field a variety of questions about Haynesworth's playing status, his relationship with coaches, his familiarity with the defense or his role in the organization.
"No need to talk about him any more. It's time to move forward and get this team where we need to be," said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "We're a team that's desperate for a win and that's what we need to do."
Shanahan, too, was eager to move on. On Monday, he declined to discuss Haynesworth, and on Wednesday he fielded nine questions about his decision to suspend the disgruntled player but declined to provide details beyond the information in the team's announcement.
"It was just time," he said. "It was just time to go in another direction."
Speculation has surrounded Haynesworth's future with the Redskins since shortly after Shanahan's arrival in January. Haynesworth and Shanahan failed to see eye to eye in their initial meeting, but Shanahan said he held out hope that the relationship would improve.
"You really don't know what's going to happen," Shanahan said. "All you try to do is do what you think is in the best interest of your football team and the organization. I know he's a very talented athlete. My goal was to get him to play at full speed, get him to play as hard as he could possibly play."
Asked whether there was any scenario in which Haynesworth could be on the roster in 2011, Shanahan declined to speculate on the team's potential personnel moves. But he apparently feels comfortable knowing that he'll be given the freedom to make that decision on his own. According to Shanahan, Snyder was willing to swallow his losses on Haynesworth without so much as a discussion.
"I'll be honest with you, Dan has been completely supportive since I've been here," Shanahan said. "He's going to give me every chance to do things the right way, build this thing, this organization the right way, and I thank him for doing it.
"But there's going to be some growing pains, there's going to be some mistakes that we make along the way. But we'll make them full-speed ahead, and, hopefully, make enough right decisions where we can get this organization back to where it's been."