For now, he has all right answers
FOXBOROUGH - Albert spoke.
Albert Haynesworth spoke clearly, with excellent verbal nuance. Whether he spoke convincingly is another matter.
It is safe to say that in his first encounter with the Patriots media, he could be described as “affable.’’ He did not have horns and he did not breathe fire. He came off as a reasonable fellow, albeit one with a formidable history of transgressions, both as a member of two professional football teams and as a member of society.
Want a little quiz?
What do you suppose Mr. Haynesworth’s response was when twice asked about his sordid history away from the field (and, in the case of the man whose head he stomped as a member of the Tennessee Titans, on it, as well)? As my dear mom would say, “You get three guesses, and the first two don’t count.’’
C’mon, I know you know.
“Everything’s in the past,’’ he said. “I’m leaving all that stuff behind in Washington.’’
Well, it’s not quite that simple. Albert Haynesworth has a court date in Washington, D.C., Aug. 23 stemming from an incident last Feb. 13 when he is alleged to have slipped a credit card inside the blouse of a wait staff member when asked to pay his bill. If true, this qualifies as “sexual abuse, misdemeanor.’’ It is Metropolitan Police Department complaint number 11019558, in case you’re interested.
So it’s not all completely “in the past,’’ not yet.
The issue before the Patriots is one of risk vs. reward. Is Albert Haynesworth, this seemingly intelligent, rational man, capable of behaving himself, both in the locker room and once he ventures out into the world? His lengthy track record suggests otherwise. Is the mere act of putting on a Patriots uniform going to make him a changed man?
The football part never has been in doubt. He may very well be the single greatest defensive line talent of the past decade. He is 6 feet 6 inches, somewhere in the vicinity of 335 pounds, and in possession of the proverbial quick feet coaches and coordinators drool over.
But at age 30, he has been in only two Pro Bowls, and that’s because he does not always put his magnificent physical gifts to proper use. He has yet to motivate himself to play hard for a prolonged period, and no one else has found the proper buttons to push.
Placing their faith in Albert Haynesworth cost the Redskins a lot, both in money and in aggravation.
Now it’s the Patriots’ turn.
This being Albert Haynesworth’s one and only chance to make a good first impression, he turned on the charm, flattering the Patriots from top to bottom. Don’t you worry about Albert. He’s here to play some serious football.
“Fresh start,’’ he said. “Of course. This is a great organization. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time.’’
Who knew? It turns out someone he describes as his “best friend’’ lives here. Albert says he even slipped incognito into Gillette Stadium for the 2008 Patriots-Chargers AFC Championship game.
“I was sitting up in the stands freezing my butt off,’’ he smiled.
Albert said just about everything a Patriots fan would want to hear him say.
“This is a great chance to be on a great team,’’ he asserted. “It’s a chance to restore my name, or whatever you want to say. It’s a great chance to be back on the field.’’
He told about hitting it off with Vince Wilfork at a Pro Bowl, and now “two, three years later, here we are.’’
He joked about being on the same team as Tom Brady, with No. 12 telling him, “Hey, you’re not going to be hitting me any more.’’
And the coach . . .
Well, you know he’s going to lay it on thick on the subject of Coach Bill. “Being on the outside, I admired him,’’ Haynesworth said. “Now, being on the inside, he’s very detail-oriented and demands perfection every time.
“I’ve been on some really good teams and played with some great players but I’ve never been in a situation where it’s like perfection every time. Not for a person but for the team.’’
Life with the Patriots in the early going has been practically idyllic.
“I’m enjoying being here,’’ he declared. “Everyone has received me. I like the way everybody has taken me in. I’m part of the family already. Everything’s been great, even with some of the fans I’ve run into. Everything’s going to be awesome.’’
Well, all right then.
Now, haven’t there been some questions in the past about how he has been used? You know, all that 4-3 preference and 3-4 abhorrence business?
“I’m willing to attack the quarterback and kill the running back,’’ he said. “I don’t care what gap I’m in, as long as it’s the gap where the ball is. That’s the gap I’m going to be in.’’
It all sounded very nice, and it almost made us forget there was a reason the Redskins were so happy to rid themselves of such an immense talent and why he was available for a paltry fifth-round draft choice. It was entirely predictable that many would invoke the name “Myra Kraft,’’ as in, “Myra Kraft would never have stood for this.’’
And even if you choose not to go that far, the fact remains that when a man has such an extreme history of professional deviance within a team structure and utter lawlessness in his down time (his high-speed driving habits have led to a man being paralyzed), he becomes a very hard man to root for.
But this is an opportunity for Albert Haynesworth to reform himself. This man could lead them to a Super Bowl, or he could become a colossal embarrassment.
Check back in a year.