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Redskins’ defense getting used to Haynesworth’s absence

- Associated Press - Monday, August 2, 2010

ASHBURN, Va. | Albert Haynesworth just stands there, wearing his baseball cap and watching his teammates play.

And the guys wearing the helmets? They're becoming used to playing without him.

One reason the Washington Redskins can let their most infamous malcontent twist in the wind day after day is because they can put together a decent starting defensive line without him. While Mike Shanahan opened the door just a sliver Monday that he might one day let Haynesworth practice without passing the team's conditioning test, the coach can also point to Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston and feel confident in what he sees.

"Very confident," Shanahan said. "That's what you do. You practice with the guys that are in football shape — and are doing what they can to help your football team."

The trio has already logged hundreds of training camp snaps together as the front line of the team's new 3-4 defense, the scheme a certain two-time All-Pro defensive tackle tried so hard to avoid. When and if he ever does practice, there won't exactly be a loud chorus of "Make Room For Haynesworth."

"We've got three good players. We've got three guys who work hard," Carriker said. "We're building a chemistry. We're not there yet, but we're getting to the point where I know what (Kemoeatu) is going to do before he does it. The more we get to do that, the better it'll be."

Haynesworth will initially work with the reserves when he does start practicing, Shanahan has decreed. Players say Haynesworth also has plenty of ground to make up on the team's camaraderie depth chart for boycotting the offseason workouts.

"He's been gone all year," fullback Mike Sellers said. "He hasn't been missed. Once he gets in shape, I guess, and gets back on the field, that's a plus always, but we've gone so long without him. It's kind of hard to miss him. ... Everybody put in the work. We really wanted him here to put in the work with us."

Because Haynesworth stayed away during the offseason — while wishing for a trade that never came — the team is requiring him to pass the conditioning test before he can practice. He has failed three times, including Monday, when soreness in his left knee forced him to pull up early. Should the saga go on and on and on without resolution, Shanahan said he "possibly" might eventually allow Haynesworth to practice without passing the test.

Certainly, the Redskins would be better with Haynesworth than without him. For one thing, the Kemoeatu-Carriker-Golston line has its share of pitfalls.

The threesome have experience — a combined 117 NFL starts — but only six of those starts came last year. Kemoeatu missed the entire season with the Carolina Panthers after tearing his right Achilles' tendon in training camp, Carriker sat out the season with the St. Louis Rams after tearing a muscle in his right shoulder, and Golston was mostly a backup with the Redskins playing in a different position — defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.

Kemoeatu and Carriker say they're recovered from their injuries and are working their way back into full football shape, but even a healthy starting line rotates in and out of the game to stay fresh. Kemoeatu's current backup at nose tackle is Anthony Bryant, a fourth-year player who has been cut six times in his career.

Haynesworth doesn't want to play nose tackle, and he appears to have lost enough weight to warrant some coveted play-making snaps at defensive end. He's shown that when he's motivated he can be a dominant player, but he hasn't played 16 games since he was a rookie in 2002.

With Shanahan in charge, Haynesworth will have to show both motivation and fitness — and then have some catching up to do — before getting a chance to displace Kemoeatu, Carriker or Golston.

"The more days that he's not out here," defensive end Phillip Daniels said, "he gets further behind."

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