Albert Haynesworth admits his 320-pound frame is built to play football, not run sprints, which made the opening of Washington Redskins minicamp Friday a welcome departure from conditioning for the offseason’s free agent prize.
“It’s a lot better to be on the field doing football stuff instead of running [100-yard sprints],” he said. “My body is not made to run 100s.”
Haynesworth’s body is made to stuff running backs and sack quarterbacks, which is why the Redskins signed him to a seven-year contract ($41 million guaranteed) in the early hours of Feb. 27.
Haynesworth was one of 116 players on the field for two workouts, but nobody wore pads and veterans Santana Moss, London Fletcher and James Thrash and second-year receiver Malcolm Kelly were limited.
What his new teammates and coaches already recognize is Haynesworth’s knowledge of the defensive tackle position, his quick first step and, most of all, his size. And they have attached what they feel are proper nicknames.
“He’s just a big load,” coach Jim Zorn said.
“A giant. The only person bigger than him is [404-pound] Mike Williams,” cornerback Fred Smoot said.
“I saw him get a big push up the middle, and he almost ran me over,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “I had to look up for a second and I was like, ‘It’s the Jolly Green Giant.’ ”
What took Haynesworth by surprise is how he’s not by far the largest player. Also on the field are Anthony Montgomery (315 pounds), Derrick Dockery (335), Renaldo Wynn (296) and Phillip Daniels, who arrived at 6-4, 276.
“We have a lot of big guys and we can all move,” Haynesworth said. “Phillip Daniels - that guy is huge. I’ve never seen anybody that big. You’ll see a lot of different stuff. You’ll see us in the backfield and freeing up the linebackers to make a lot more plays.”
Defensive coordinator Greg Blache said the expectations this weekend are the same for Haynesworth as the other players.
“It’s what I want to see from everybody else - that they can line up, get to the football, learn their assignments, learn their alignment, learn to communicate and learn to be a part of the defense,” Blache said.
The Redskins hope Haynesworth can join the rest of the defensive line and maintain a top run-stopping ranking (eighth last year) but improve the pass rush, which was 27th out of 32 teams in sacks per attempt.
The Redskins’ 13 interceptions were tied for the 13th-fewest in the NFL.
“When you don’t have a lot of sacks, you don’t have a lot of turnovers, because they go hand in hand,” Smoot said. “A quarterback in this league won’t make mistakes if they’re not under duress. Hopefully they won’t get that clear path to shoot BBs, like they did last year.”
The first step for Haynesworth has been discussing his role in the Redskins’ 4-3 scheme.
“We’re doing a little bit of what we did in Tennessee to get me feeling normal and how I played there,” he said. “We’ve incorporated some stuff, but we still have a whole lot of stuff they ran last year.”
Blache said the scheme will change “a little bit” but wouldn’t elaborate, and he became grumpy when asked if the Redskins’ defensive line should be improved this year.
“I think we have a talented group, but talent alone is nothing,” he said. “The prisons are full of talent. The rehab centers are full of talent. If you don’t have passion, if you don’t have discipline, if you’re not selfless, talent is a curse, not a blessing. We have some talent, but will we make it what it’s supposed to be? I don’t know. We have to see.”
Haynesworth’s next hearing in a case in which he is charged with two traffic misdemeanors was delayed this week until June 8. Haynesworth, who pleaded not guilty in March, is charged in an accident in which another driver was seriously injured.
“I’m not really worried about it,” he said. “I’m here to get better on the field and let my lawyer and agent take care of that good old stuff.”
Zorn said Haynesworth’s value won’t be obvious on every snap because of his ability to draw double teams and open lanes for other players.
“We looked at a lot of video, and for our system he’s going to do the same things for us as he did for them,” Zorn said. “He’s going to get into the backfield, and he’s going to push on double teams. When he creates that much of a problem, you have to be on him with a couple of guys and that hopefully frees up other guys to make plays.
“There are going to be times when people will say, ‘Where’s Albert? Why isn’t he doing this?’ But he’s doing what we’re asking him to do.”