Redskins' Haynesworth butting heads with teammates
Phillip Daniels' emotions swelled to the point that the Washington Redskins veteran defensive lineman had to stop and gather himself as he spoke about Albert Haynesworth.
When Daniels resumed, the words were candid and stern.
"I've been through 15 seasons and I ain't won [anything]. So what I'm saying is if I can come out here and do this, don't tell me that you can't do it," Daniels said Monday. "I want every guy on this team to do well. I want you to realize that if you ain't all in, you don't need to be here.
"That's my point. I'm tired of going through season after season where we lose games that we should win, guys not doing the right thing, guys not putting the best effort in, whatever it may be. I'm tried of that, man. We deserve better."
The Redskins have a Haynesworth headache that just won't go away, even in December with Washington (5-7) essentially out of the playoff picture and morphing into wait'll-next-year mode.
The two-time All-Pro who skipped off-season workouts, boycotted a mandatory minicamp, needed 10 days to pass a conditioning test at training camp and did all he could to resist a change in the defensive scheme apparently got sick last week.
He didn't have a good practice Thursday, according to coach Mike Shanahan, then showed up late Friday and was limited because of the unspecified illness.
Shanahan thus decided to make Haynesworth inactive for Sunday's game against the New York Giants, but the coach didn't let the decision be known until shortly before kickoff. The move created a distraction in the locker-room, the last thing needed before a road game against a division rival.
Haynesworth probably wouldn't have made much difference in the 31-7 beatdown, but the episode further isolated the player with the $100 million US contract and raised questions as to whether he and Shanahan will ever be compatible.
"It's always something else," Daniels said. "I just wish the team could stay focused and not worry about things like this. When I come to the locker room on game day, I expect guys to be ready to go and play. I don't expect to get a surprise. ... At the same time I can understand why it happened. I'm not questioning the coach's decision at all."
Shanahan said Monday he plans to meet with Haynesworth and won't discuss anything about the matter until Wednesday, after the meeting has taken place. The coach declined to say whether Haynesworth will remain on the roster for the rest of the season.
"I think it's fair for me to talk to him before I talk to you," Shanahan told reporters.
Shanahan also defended his decision to wait until Sunday morning to announce that Haynesworth would be inactive, saying he always waits until the last minute to reveal inactives as a matter of strategy.
Daniels said the distractions involving Haynesworth are "not healthy" for the team and that it "drags you down." He called Haynesworth a "great person" who "tries for the most part to fit in," but Daniels also cited a slogan from college — "Big team, little me" — and said that's the part Haynesworth doesn't get.
"That's what I go out there and play for every day – my teammates," Daniels said. "And I think that's the part of the game that really skipped by him."
Daniels said he hasn't missed a practice this season at age 37, even though he's been sick recently. He says he supported Shanahan's decision because it put the team first.
"He's not going to let one guy, one person, come in here and destroy what we have," Daniels said. "You put the team first when you think about the future and things that we've got to do. If you don't practice, you don't play -- and that's putting the team first."
Daniels said his feelings are echoed by his teammates.
"Guys don't want to say it, but guys feel the same way, man," Daniels said. "I'm a guy that I'm going to tell you the truth, and I'm going to tell you how it is. I'm not going to hide behind anything. I would love for things to work out with him. If he put everything he had into football — I'm talking about the workout part of it, the weight room, just the learning the game, the studying of the game — he would be no doubt the NFL player of the year."
The outstanding question, then, is whether Haynesworth can change. He also had a less-than-stellar work ethic reputation during his seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans before signing with the Redskins last year.
"I don't know how much he can change," Daniels said. "I think your DNA follows you in a lot of ways."
Other players weren't as forthright as Daniels, but several spoke of the Haynesworth issue as a distraction -- and indirectly stoked the debate as to whether Shanahan will want Haynesworth around next year.
"He's formulating to get his type of guys, the guys that he knows he can win with," linebacker London Fletcher said. "That's the nature of the business. You're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution, and you just hope to be part of the solution when all is said and done."