Finally, Albert Haynesworth passes Redskins' conditioning test

He joins practice at Redskins Park

August 07, 2010|By Rick Maese and Jason Reid, The Washington Post

ASHBURN, Va. — — Early in the afternoon practice, the large lineman, formerly caught in a tug of war between disgruntled and disinterested, squatted down and lined up as a nose tackle, stuck his hand in the grass at Redskins Park for the first time in seven months. The magnitude of the moment — 41/2 months in the making — wasn't lost on defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who shouted out, "Oh, yeah, we got the big guy back!"

On the 10th day of training camp, Albert Haynesworth finally joined his teammates at practice. Earlier in the morning, he passed coach Mike Shanahan's conditioning test, which Haynesworth had failed on three previous tries.

"The test is over, and you know, now it's back to playing football," Haynesworth said after practice, refusing to take any questions.

Shortly before noon, Haynesworth was greeted by a smattering of cheers when the Redskins' faithful gathered for Fan Appreciation Day realized he was wearing pads for the first time in camp. He participated in position drills but watched from the side when the team ran plays in 11-on-11 drills. Coaches expect him to fully participate in practice when players return to camp Monday morning. Haynesworth will line up as the nose tackle for the second-team defense in a newly installed 3-4 scheme that kept him from all but one day of the team's offseason workouts.

Despite his initial misgivings, coaches and teammates report that Haynesworth is slowly coming around on the team's new defense.

"I think he knows the nose and the ends are more involved than he thought they were," said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "It ain't just holding blocks. It's, 'Go and make plays.'"

Coaches, though, don't seem overly concerned with Haynesworth's level of contentment. Since moving into their offices at Redskins Park in January, the coaching staff has implemented its new plans without first polling players.

"My job is not him enjoying our scheme," said Shanahan. "My job is making sure he plays at a very high level. We'll find out in time if he does that."

Saturday's practice could serve as the final act in a drama that made the Redskins' training camp one of the most watched in the league. The standoff between Haynesworth and Shanahan all hinged on the defensive linemen passing the coach's conditioning test. The test was mandatory because Haynesworth didn't participate in the team's offseason conditioning program.

Determined to finally pass after three failed attempts — including one botched because of an extended bathroom break — Haynesworth reported to Redskins Park around 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Because of lingering knee problems, he hadn't taken the test the previous four mornings.

"He was going to make that test one way or another," said Haslett, "or him and I might have been fighting on the field today. I had confidence last night he was going to make it."

As he had done the first nine days of training camp, the two-time All Pro met with strength coach Ray Wright, who had Haynesworth's schedule planned for the morning.

Haynesworth, Haslett, Wright and three other members of Wright's staff walked down the hill to the practice fields at 7:06 a.m. As workers milled about, preparing the VIP tent for Fan Appreciation Day, Haynesworth stretched for about 10 minutes, unfazed when a worker shouted out, "You got this [expletive]!"

The test consisted of two 300-yard shuttle sprints. Haynesworth knew the times he had to beat: 70 seconds on the first one, and after a short break, 73 seconds on the second.

With Haslett and Wright watching, Haynesworth completed the first run in 66 seconds, according to the team's numbers. He finished the second in 70 — "flying colors," Shanahan later said.

"Today was the first time I saw him dig down deep and go get it," Haslett said.

With passing times, the Redskins deemed Haynesworth to be in "football shape," and he was allowed to practice with his teammates.

"Hopefully, in the long run, this will be the first start of him having a great year," Shanahan said after practice. "I think he'll like what we're doing defensively, both inside and outside, as he gets to know the defense. Right now, he has a little idea what we're doing. But it's going to take some time. I think he'll be very good at it."

With the test passed, Haynesworth must now turn his attention to two areas: Learning a defense that his teammates have spent four months studying and repairing any relations frayed by his clash with management.

"He probably doesn't like me very much right now, but I'm not here to be liked," Shanahan said. "I'm here to get him to play."

Several teammates voiced their relief at Haynesworth finally rejoining the team for full practice. While his dormant status dominated the headlines the first 10 days of camp, many players said they had ignored the updates and were simply excited to integrate him into the full team drills.

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