Redskins’ Haynesworth a $100M upgrade

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Albert Haynesworth says he is fed up with CNN. No, not the cable network. “Constantly Negative News,” he said.

“People always say something negative no matter how good you do,” said the Washington Redskins’ new defensive tackle, the costliest and perhaps the most significant NFL free-agent acquisition during the offseason. “I’ve always had naysayers in my life, for as long as I can remember.”

The Redskins are not among them and to prove it, they made Haynesworth the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. After spending seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans, he signed a seven-year, $100 million contract, the key part of which is a league-record $41 million in guaranteed money.

Washington ranked fourth in defense last season, but lacked impact players. Haynesworth, they believe, is an impact player. At 6-foot-6, 350-pounds, he is uncommonly quick and agile. At 28, he should be at his peak. After the Redskins beat out at least six teams to entice Haynesworth, general manager Vinny Cerrato said, “I think what he adds to the defense is the way he can disrupt. The way he can stop the run. The way he can create havoc rushing the passer, the way he makes people around him better because of what he does inside.”

Cerrato added, “He requires two or three blockers. It enables the other guys to make plays. It helps the secondary because of the pressure on the quarterback. The money we spent was well worth it in our minds.”

But Haynesworth, twice an All-Pro selection, has been dogged by controversy. He likes to move fast — one of his passions is piloting speed boats — and has been arrested several times for motor vehicle violations. In March, he was indicted on two misdemeanor charges from a December traffic accident in which another man was seriously injured. The man also is suing Haynesworth for $7.5 million.

In addition, Haynesworth is an unwitting bystander in an NFL investigation into tampering charges against the Redskins. The Titans have accused Washington officials of illegally contacting Haynesworth before he became a free agent.

Off the field, Haynesworth is funny, chatty, even charming. He is not shy. He said he wanted to play in a bigger market “because you can get so much done and there are so many outlets to get people to know you.” He said although he will gladly collect his paycheck, his new riches won’t change who he is.

“I like to have fun, hang out with my friends, hang out with my kids [he has three],” he said. “Try to be normal. I want to be normal, but people kind of put on a superstar status on you. I’m just a normal guy that likes to go shopping at Wal-Mart and find the best deal.”

On the field, Haynesworth becomes a different person entirely. He plays with a mean streak a mile wide, a rage that has exceeded even normal football standards. One of his former college coaches once used the word “madness” in describing him. “That’s exactly right,” Haynesworth said. “Don’t talk to me before the game, don’t talk to me during the game. I’ll talk to you after the game.”

He also said, “I was immature. I used to fight a lot.”

During his college days at the University of Tennessee, Haynesworth fought with a teammate during practice and later had to be restrained after returning with a long pole and evil intent. A former Titans teammate, guard Justin Hartwig, claims Haynesworth once kicked him in the chest during practice.

But his show-stopping episode, the one he might never fully live down, occurred in 2006 when Haynesworth stomped on the face of Dallas Cowboys guard Andre Gurode during a game. Gurode, whose helmet had come off, needed 30 stitches. The NFL suspended Haynesworth five games, a record for an on-field infraction.

Since then, Haynesworth has done his penance and has learned to channel his anger. He has shown the proper remorse and regret and said he has made peace with Gurode. He wishes people would let him get on with his life.

“No matter how I do, they bring up the Dallas incident,” he said, bringing it up himself. “It was my fault. It was my deal. I did it. I’m not gonna say this happened or that happened. I did it. That’s what it was. Stand up for it, take full responsibility. Sorry I did it. But it happened. You can’t go back into the past and stop it.”

Now Haynesworth is fending off the critics who believe the Redskins overpaid to get him, and the perception among some observers that he doesn’t go hard all the time during games.

He was asked if he plays with a chip on his shoulder. “A boulder,” he replied.

“In Tennessee, they tried to say the same thing,” he said. “He’s getting all that money, he’s relaxed. That’s B.S. I make money off the field. If I didn’t want to do this anymore, I wouldn’t have to. It’s not about money. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s about being the best in the world. To be the best in your sport, nobody else can say that. If I get into the Hall of Fame and put on that yellow jacket, that will mean something to me.”

Haynesworth is part of a commercial real estate partnership in Tennessee that he says is doing well.

“There are other things I can do without killing myself,” he said. “The money’s good [from football], don’t get me wrong, but I could be wearing a collared shirt and slacks instead of killing myself and wondering if I’ll be able to walk when I’m 40.

“It’s about being the best. [Redskins owner Dan Snyder] has billions of dollars, but he can’t say he’s the best. He’s completely comfortable, he has great cars and houses, he owns the Redskins and all that, but there are other billionaires out there. This is a rare opportunity. I could be the best there is.”

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