Albert Haynesworth hasn't said much this season. Lately, he has been doing plenty. And Thursday, he stepped up on the podium before the media to make his most extensive comments in a tumultuous year.
The big defensive lineman acknowledged a lack of comfort with the Redskins 3-4 defense but said that recent changes to his role had been helpful.
"It's been hard to embrace the 3-4 because I've never played it. It's like going from crawling to being an All Pro in a 3-4. It's not impossible but it's definitely extremely hard," he said.
Going into the game against the Chicago Bears, Haynesworth and the coaches talked about redefining the situations in which he would play. Rather than using him as a nose tackle in the base 3-4, they put him in as a pass-rusher in the nickel package, when the alignment is more like the familiar 4-3.
Haynesworth got his first sack of the season, had two tackles for loss and made a huge play at the goal line that led to a turnover.
"I'm not good enough to play the 3-4 and we've got a guy in front of me (Ma'ake Kemoeatu) who can play the 3-4 better than I can. So whatever helps the team. I do get to play the nickel and I play well in that so that's when you see me out there," Haynesworth said.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett agreed in part with Haynesworth's self-scouting. He said Haynesworth's talent should allow him to excel in almost any scheme but there's a buy-in that has to take place.
"Trying to get him to do the 3-4 stuff was trying to get a square peg into a round hole," Haslett said. "We tried to force the issue and it hasn't worked out the way we would like. Now I still think he can do it because he's a good athlete and smart enough and tough enough to do it. I think he just needs more time doing it but we're trying to take advantage and win some games with what he does best.
"He can do anything he wants to do. He's just got to want to do it. Albert is athletic, he's big enough, it's more of a mindset than anything. Is it what he does best, the 3-4? Probably not. But it doesn't mean he can't do it."
Haynesworth, however, dislikes the close quarters that nose tackles occupy in the 3-4.
"The whole goal is to win games and put the best people on the field. At the Okie (the base 3-4), I don't think I'm one of the best players at that. Playing the nickel, I think I am. That's what we came to," he said. "We all want to win games, we want to go far in this season, hope it's the Super Bowl."
Twice a Pro Bowl pick in his seven seasons with the Tennesse Titans, he said he would still like to be a starter but wasn't putting that above any team goals.
"I'd like to start and start playing like I used to, playing 35-40 plays. But right now I'm fine with it. Whatever helps the team. I go out there and make plays for them. It doesn't really matter who starts that first play because all it is is the first play," he said.
All the snaps count and the Redskins see ways Haynesworth can help, primarily in the nickel. At 6-6, 335 pounds, he's a presence who can loom large over centers.
"He can disrupt people in the middle. He can put pressure on guys in the middle. We haven't had a lot of pressure up the gut this year. We've got more outside and off the edges," Haslett said. "He's a guy that can disrupt the middle. We've got enough guys that can work the edges, if he and Vonnie (Holliday) and Kedric (Golston) can man the middle."
In his far-ranging interview, Haynesworth also said he and coach Mike Shanahan were not at odds, even after the protracted issue of the conditioning test he had to pass in training camp and a spate of trade rumors.
"Everything's been fine. When I talk to him about it, we just laugh about all the stuff that you all speculate because I don't really say anything and he never really says anything so it's just funny all the stuff you all come up with. We talk every other day or so," he said.
Because he elected to skip all but one day of voluntary workouts at Redskins Park in the off-season (plus the mandatory minicamp), he did not have sufficient days to exempt himself from the series of sprints that made up the conditioning test. He was the only player who had to do those runs. He had elected to work out in the off-season with his own trainer and reported to camp at least 15 pounds lighter than his listed playing weight in 2009.
Was he shamed by what took place?
"I'm not going to be embarrassed for sticking to what I believe in. I'm not going to be embarrassed about that," he said.
He had previously said he planned again to skip off-season workouts at Redskins Park to train elsewhere, which Shanahan dislikes, and he said he didn't know if he was part of the team's long-term plans.
"I have no clue. Right now, if I just keep playing, I'm going to be somewhere," he said.
With the squabbles over his off-season absences, his lack of playing time and the recent death of his brother in a motorcycle accident, Haynesworth had described 2010 as the worst year of his life.
"You just take it one day at a time. You can't dwell on the past as much. God only puts you through things you can handle," he said.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.