Will Big Al be Bill Belichick’s newest successful reclamation project? (Christian Petersen/GETTY IMAGES)

He certainly doesn’t want a team full of knuckleheads but his recent teams seem to thrive when the spice of a troublesome personality is added to his corporate locker room.

He took on Corey Dillon after Dillon told the Bengals he’d rather flip burgers than play for them. He took on Randy Moss after Moss pouted his way out of Oakland. In both cases, Belichick pushed all the right buttons and transformed the players back into productive superstars.

But now, by trying to integrate Haynesworth into his 3-4 scheme, which Haynesworth publicly abhors as a strategy, psychologist Bill may be facing his biggest challenge yet. And sure, his is a team coming off of a 14-win season with a locker room full of winners. But this is not Tedy Bruschi’s defense. A lot of players on the Patriots’ defense are young. The veteran professional approach that Tom Brady and the like provided on offense for Dillon and Moss will not be there to keep Mr. Haynesworth in line.

This is Bill’s baby, and it’s a big baby. Taking another team’s trash and turning it into gold has become something of a Belichick trademark. And in the case of Haynesworth, it’s a perfect gamble for a team that had serious trouble rushing the passer last year. Sure, it’s expensive unless the Patriots can convince Haynesworth to redo his contract. But Belichick knows the upside is enormous.

And although the Patriots play primarily a 3-4 defense, which Haynesworth thinks is a dumb idea, Belichick is a master at adjusting his team to his personnel. So I won’t be surprised to see some different looks this year. The combination of Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork could even become an older version of what we all expect to see in Detroit this year when Ndamukong Suh is paired with Nick Fairley.

Will it work? When Haynesworth is good, he’s great. The Patriots won 14 games last year and their weak link was attacking the passer. And to finish the simple arithmetic, Belichick has a track record of transforming talented knuckleheads into superstars. It will work and the Patriots just got a lot better.


Brian Tarcy at briantarcy.com is the co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Football" with Joe Theismann, and the creator of the NFL humor site Whatzgonnahappen