Haynesworth finally conquered the 300-yard shuttle runs Saturday morning and was allowed to put on the pads for the first time at training camp, ending a will-he-or-won’t-he spectacle that lasted a week and a half, made him the butt of jokes nationwide and overshadowed everything else at Redskins Park.
Coach Mike Shanahan had said Haynesworth could not practice until passing the test, and the showdown was seen as a statement of a new coach’s uncompromising authority that wouldn’t bend even for a two-time All-Pro with a $100 million contract.
“He probably doesn’t like me very much right now,” Shanahan said, “but I’m not here to be liked. I’m here to get him to play, and hopefully he’ll play at a very high level.”
Merely passing the test took enough of a toll to keep Haynesworth from getting through a full practice. After doing some defense drills _ blocking sleds, recovering fumbles, etc. _ he had a huge wrap put on his persistently sore left knee midway through the session and became a spectator again during the offense-vs.-defense team drills.
The Redskins are off Sunday, and coaches say they expect Haynesworth to be able to go through a full practice Monday, working initially as a second-string nose tackle. But the knee problem, which has bothered Haynesworth for several years, isn’t going away anytime soon.
“Last year he said he was having problems every third or fourth day with the knee, so there is a problem there,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we’re going to make sure that he gets treatment.”
But set aside such concerns, a least for a day. He passed the test! A cloud was lifted over camp! He clocked 66 and 70 seconds when all he needed was 70 and 73. There was no controversial potty break, such as the 10-minute detour to the bathroom that caused him to fail on the first day of camp.
The soreness in the knee that kept him from even trying for four straight days had subsided enough to give it a go. So what if it took the focus away from Fan Appreciation Day _ or former Redskins Hog Russ Grimm’s induction into the Hall of Fame _ teammates were relieved not to have to answer questions about it anymore, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was getting sick and tired of seeing Haynesworth become a nonstop staple of the sports news cycle.
“Today’s the first day I saw him dig down deep and go get it,” Haslett said. “He was going to make that test one way or another, or him and I might have been fighting on the field today. He was going to make the test. I said ‘I’m sick of seeing you at 4 o’clock in the morning.’ I’d wake up and see his face on TV. You see him on TV all the time.”
And how did Haynesworth himself feel about all the fuss? There’s no telling. He has shunned reporters throughout training camp, and his unilluminating statement to the media Saturday lasted all of 14 seconds _ one-fifth of the time it took to run the second part of his test.
“The test is over, and now it’s back to playing football,” he said. “I want to thank all the fans for coming out and still supporting me and still wearing (No.) 92 jerseys and still believing in me, so y’all have a good day.”
Although a chapter in the Haynesworth saga has been completed, the book is far from over. He is months behind in learning the team’s new 3-4 defense, a scheme he didn’t want to play. He stayed away from the team’s offseason workouts while hoping for a trade, a boycott that made him the only player required to take the conditioning test at training camp.
“It doesn’t make a difference. We’re not changing it,” Haslett said. “He really just has to go along with it.”