Signed to the Buccaneers’ roster less than 24 hours ago, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was available for comment with the media for the first time Thursday afternoon.
Haynesworth fielded about seven minutes worth of questions in front of his new locker following his initial practice with the team he nearly signed with nearly three years ago before accepting a lucrative seven-year, $100-million deal with Washington.
“I'm excited, you know,” Haynesworth said of being with the Bucs. “This is where I should have been like three years ago. But I think all good things come to somebody that waits.”
Following a tumultuous two seasons with the Redskins, Haynesworth spent a forgettable half-season in New England that saw him play in six games and record just three total tackles.
Haynesworth spoke candidly throughout Thursday’s brief media session and said he felt like wasn’t getting enough playing time with the Patriots to grow into the defense and become effective.
“I felt like I could still play. I just wanted to prove myself,” he said. “[New England], it was a great place. Coach [Bill] Belichick is a great guy and it’s a great system, but I just wanted to play more. I wanted to practice more, get more reps and the more plays I got the better I would get. I just wasn’t getting a lot of reps, so they made the decision and let me go.
“Some of it might have been health issues; some of it was that we had a lot of defensive linemen. We would switch different things depending on the team we played. Some teams that we had to play, the scheme we were running that week didn’t really fit me that well.”
Coming to Tampa, Haynesworth will be asked to help fill the void left by Gerald McCoy at the three technique within the Bucs’ 4-3 base defense. New England also lines up in a base 4-3 set, but Washington switched over to a 3-4 base when head coach Mike Shanahan took over control of the team in 2010. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said yesterday that he feels Haynesworth will have a better chance to succeed in Tampa Bay with a scaled down responsibility of being a one-gap defensive tackle.
“He’s been more of a 3-4 defensive end two-gapping,” Dominik said. “He and we have always felt he was more of a one-gap penetrator. And the timing is what it was. It made sense to us and to me to put the claim in for a guy I think can help us the second half of the stretch.”
Haynesworth said he’s looking forward to playing that role in Tampa Bay, but added that he still needs to work on transitioning back into that responsibility.
“It feels great, it feels unbelievable. Just to get off the ball and wreak havoc, that’s awesome. I haven’t done it in three years and I have to get back to it, but today with the practice we’ve had I’m off to a good start.”
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris spoke to the media Thursday about the signing of Haynesworth and what he is expecting the 10-year veteran to bring to Tampa Bay.
"We were a pretty good defense when we had Gerald McCoy in there,” Morris said. “We were pretty good, and pretty active. We had a significant drop off when we tried to fill people in that void.
“But Frank (Okam) and Gerald went down at the same time. Hopefully we can get some of the same stuff we got from Gerald, disruption to help us become a better football team as well as a defense.
He (Haynesworth) has his chances too. He’s on a couple strikes himself. Coming here is a breath of fresh air for him and his family. It’ll be very important for him to come out here and have success with his teammates, his coaches. We just have to try to provide an atmosphere that he can succeed in.”
An issue following Haynesworth over the past few years, especially since the blowup in Washington, is his weight and conditioning. The Bucs have the 30-year-old tackle listed at 6-foot-6, 350-pounds on their official roster. Haynesworth said he feels he has been in good shape all year and is ready to get back to becoming the type of player that was selected to the NFL’s All-Pro team in 2007 and 2008.
“It’s good. It’s what I wanted. I felt like I was in pretty good shape [in New England] but I just needed to get more plays. If I came out of the game to get a breather, maybe a few plays later I’d hope to get back in but there we didn’t do that.
“I think I can be pretty effective. I’m an older guy and I think they brought me in here to play hard and also to teach some of the younger guys how to play. I’ll be somewhat of, I guess, a mentor … get off the ball and disrupt and show them really how good it is that the grass ain’t greener on the other side always. I think this is a young, fast, talented team. I think we’ve got a lot of potential here, but like everybody knows, potential is nothing. We’ve just got to capitalize on it.”
Perhaps Haynesworth’s most open and honest comments came when asked about his decision not to come to Tampa Bay to begin with in 2009.
“You want to know the truth on that one? It was too pretty; it was too much water, too much sun here. I had just bought a nice, big boat, a good fast boat, and I really thought like if I came here I’d mix my time in with football and boating. When I was at Tennessee, during the offseason then I’d do the boating and do all my toys and playing around and all that. I figured with the water and the sun being here all year round, I was a little afraid of myself on a Tuesday going for a boat right or something like that. I should have trusted myself and known, but I was kind of scared of that.”