|Albert Haynesworth: ‘I wish I had been here earlier’||09.02.11 at 12:58 am ET|
FOXBORO — There have been many expectations laid at the feet of Albert Haynesworth. But on Thursday night, following his first game in a Patriots uniform, he’s just really, really grateful those feet are planted in New England.
“I can’t believe it,” Haynesworth said. “We have a lot of experience and a lot of great guys. Also being around the young guys has been awesome. I feel right at home here. I wish I had been here earlier.”
No, he wasn’t talking about missing the first three preseason games. He was referring to taking the best deal that was out there when he was a free agent prior to the 2009 season. That deal came from owner Daniel Snyder and the Washington Redskins.
They gave the former Titans Pro Bowl nose tackle $41 million guaranteed as part of a seven-year, $100 million deal prior to the 2009 season. It appeared to be a no-brainer for the Redskins, who were trying to overhaul their defense with the best D-lineman on the market.
One problem. Mike Shanahan took over before the 2010 season and insisted Haynesworth embrace new responsibilities in a 3-4, gap-driven scheme. All of sudden, he felt very much out of his element. All he wanted to do was play the nose in a 4-3 and Bill Belichick was in the market for such a player to team next to Vince Wilfork. So, the Pats traded a pair of mid-to-low round picks in next year’s draft for Haynesworth.
On Thursday, we finally got to see what it looked like.
Haynesworth made his Patriots debut in the preseason finale against the Giants and then went out of his way to thank the Patriots for giving him a chance to save his career. He and fellow newcomer Andre Carter were together on the defensive line, as they were the last two seasons in Washington.
“We were talking about how different it is and how we really like this place,” Haynesworth said of his in-game chat with Carter. “This is a career-saving place for me to come. I had no idea it would be like this but it’s unbelievable. I wish I kind of I took [a look at the Patriots] two years ago and came here.”
The Patriots acquired him in a trade just before camp opened and reworked his contract to a two-year deal worth $8.7 million, including a base salary of $1.5 million this season. But Haynesworth said he was just ecstatic to be with a new group of teammates.
Haynesworth heard a loud cheer from the crowd when his name was announced following the first of his two solo tackles. He also assisted on another.
“I’m not going to lie, my chest started burning,” Haynesworth said of his first game action with the Pats. “It was colder than I thought it was going to be. I think this is still summer. As far as football conditioning, I felt pretty good. I want to work on my explosion a little bit, knocking people back on the line of scrimmage and getting after the quarterback more.
“My best friend lives 45 minutes away. I’ve come to games. I’ve heard the fans. They’re always cheering, no matter what. They’re always behind you. In his hometown of Worcester, they’re all like that. They talk to me and everything and they always tell me they wish I was a Patriot and now it came true.”
There is one thing that’s going to need addressing however. His fiancee’s wardrobe in the coming months in New England.
“My fiancee is dreading it right now,” he said. “She’s from Fort Lauderdale and I’m sure she’s got two coats on.”
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