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Haynesworth Suspension Signals Redskins Are Moving On

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It's over. Sort of.

Albert Haynesworth's short tenure with the Redskins seemed to end on Tuesday when he was suspended without pay for the final four games of the season for conduct detrimental to the club.

There will be more drama. This is over, but not really over. Haynesworth will continue to be a part of this team's season whether he's in the locker room or not, on the field or not. And what the future holds is anybody's guess, though nobody's guessing he'll be wearing a burgundy No. 92 in 2011.

He'll be present in absentia, which maybe isn't so different after all. His teammates will be asked endlessly on Wednesday, when they return for practice, how they feel, what they think, what went wrong, who's at fault. If the Redskins had a position on this team labeled "major distraction," Haynesworth would be All Pro and not all but gone.

The latest confrontation came Monday. According to a statement from head coach Mike Shanahan, Haynesworth met with general manager Bruce Allen and told him he would no longer speak with Shanahan. This followed the team's decision Sunday to deactivate Haynesworth for the game against the New York Giants.

Shanahan said that Haynesworth, signed as a free agent in 2009, "has repeatedly refused to cooperate with our coaching staff in a variety of ways over an extended period of time." He cited the player's refusal "to play in our base defense" and other situational alignments, and "to follow the instructions of our coaches both during weekly practices and during actual games as well."

Last week, an ill Haynesworth did not take part in Friday's practice and Shanahan said he had a poor practice on Thursday. The Redskins decided not to put him on the 45-man active roster and informed him on Sunday morning. The Giants game was the fourth this season in which he appeared on the inactive list – two of those following the death of his brother in a motorcycle accident, another due to an ankle injury.

This marriage could not be saved. Haynesworth never settled in and made this house his home. He disliked the style of 4-3 defense the club played in 2009 and complained about his role in it. He rebelled against the move to the 3-4, ditching all but one day of the off-season voluntary workouts (which is his right) and then skipping a mandatory minicamp, for which he was fined.

He did not want to play nose tackle in the 3-4. He did not take part in the team's conditioning program, electing to work with his own trainer elsewhere. He went his own way. Shanahan, finally, went his.

"Although suspending any player is not a decision that a head coach enters into lightly, I believe the situation has reached the point where the club clearly has no alternative," Shanahan said.

At times, Haynesworth seemed to buy in. He was productive on occasions, in certain spots in certain games. No one doubts the talent he possesses. But the commitment? The will? The sense of being part of something bigger?

"He just needs to think about what he's doing as far as the football part of the thing and know that your teammates are counting on you. I think that's the part of the game that really slipped by him," defensive end Phillip Daniels had said Monday. "He let himself down. He didn't let us down, he let himself down. But in the process of letting yourself down, you let your teammates down too in a lot of ways."

Players depend on each other. They talk endlessly about trust. They expect a certain dedication to craft, a selfless approach in putting personal desires and aspirations second to team goals. Shanahan believes in creating a culture built on effort in practice, adherence to simple rules, unity of purpose. Players buy in. Haynesworth opted out.

There are avenues by which Haynesworth can appeal the suspension and he probably will. No small irony there, where a player unhappy with almost everything around him fights for his right for more of the same.

So this chapter closes for now. In two seasons, Haynesworth played in only 20 of 28 games and all of his 12 starts came last year. The lasting images are not of plays made and greatness achieved but recalcitrance and reluctance, distractions and disillusion. The Redskins will move on and play without him.

Sadly, for most of his time here, that's really what they always did.


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.

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