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Mike Shanahan Describes An Early Conversation With Albert Haynesworth

Posted by Matt Terl on February 25, 2011 – 2:11 pm

Shortly after Albert Haynesworth was suspended for conduct detrimental to the club, this is how Mike Shanahan described one of his earliest meetings with the defensive lineman as head coach in Washington: “When he first came in, we talked about a 4-3 defense; he didn’t like the 4-3 defense a year ago. Didn’t like the base defense, didn’t like the nickel defense. Came here, didn’t wanna play nose tackle, didn’t wanna play defensive end.”

You might think that summary really captures the sheer, kafkaesque frustration the coach felt when dealing with Haynesworth, but the detailed version — as told to Larry Michael in their interview at the Combine yesterday — really expands on and enhances that feeling.

The subject came up when Michael asked what Haynesworth’s current status was, and if there was any chance he would be on the team this season. (“I get this question on Redskins Nation all the time,” Michael said, by way of segueing into the topic, “and it’s about Albert Haynesworth. And the question has been blunt at times: why is he still on the team?”)

Here’s the coach’s answer:
“Well, let me say it this way,” Shanahan began. “When I sat down with Albert, and I talked to him, my first meeting, you know, he sat down with me and he was very blunt with me. He said, ‘Hey, Mike.’ He said, ‘I’m not sure if I wanna play in this 3-4 defense, nose tackle OR defensive end.’

“And I said, ‘I understand that, I understand that you like the 4-3 defense.’

“And he said, ‘I do.’

“So I looked at about a hundred plays with Albert, and [out of] those hundred plays, there were about fifty of those plays where he was going about half speed. I said, ‘Well, you tell me you like the 4-3 defense, yet you’re not playing very hard in THIS 4-3 defense.’

“He said, ‘Well, it’s not the same defense that I had in Tennessee.’

“I said, ‘I understand, but you said you wanted to play in a four-man front. This is a four-man front. So sometimes you have to adjust to a scheme. So what you want to do is you want to play in EXACTLY the same front that you did when you were at Tennessee.’ I said, ‘If you wanna do that,’ I said, ‘I’m gonna give you the opportunity to go out. I don’t want anything in return.

“‘But if you take our check for 21 million dollars, I expect you to come back here and not only work, but play at a high level. You don’t have to take it, ’cause you’ve already gotten a lot of money from this organization. But if you do take that check, I’m just not gonna cut you and let you go out and go to another football team and get another payday. If you take that check, you’re gonna come back here and play and at least work hard to give yourself an opportunity to make this football team and help us win.’

“When he did take that check, I expected him to work hard and do the things he was capable of doing to help our football team win. Now, a couple of games he did play at that level. But not as consistently as I would like. So I’m not gonna show my hand right now exactly what we are gonna do, but he IS with the Redskins. We have a responsibility — or at least we have control of his future. And we’ve got a pending, obviously, grievance. And after that takes shape, I’ll let you know a little bit more.”

Michael asked if it was exasperating or frustrating for a coach to have to handle a player like that.

“It’s always disappointing,” Shanahan said, “when people can’t reach their full potential. Y’know, that’s my job: to give a guy a chance to reach his full potential. And I think Albert did help himself. He got in much better shape. He had a couple good games. Then, a couple games, y’know, he didn’t play as well as we’d like him to play. So we’ll let the process take care of itself and … I can’t show my hand right now, but we’ll see.”

Part 1 of Larry Michael’s interview with the coach can be seen here; part 2 will be up this afternoon.

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