30 stitches later, players are now friends

IRVING, Texas -- All is forgiven between Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode and Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

On Oct. 1, 2006, Haynesworth, then with the Tennessee Titans, stomped Gurode in the head, causing wounds that needed 30 stitches to close.

The NFL suspended Haynesworth five games without pay, the longest for an on-field infraction in league history.

Haynesworth is questionable for Sunday's game with a sprained ankle. But if he does play, he'll be lining up across from Gurode at Cowboys Stadium.

And they are friends.

"I mean, he's been making Pro Bowls ever since," inside linebacker Bradie James said of Gurode. "It put him on the map. Maybe Haynesworth needs to come knock me out."

James was smiling when he made that comment, but nothing was funny when Gurode was on his knees seeking help after Haynesworth kicked him in the face.

Haynesworth was ejected from the Cowboys' victory, and he apologized afterward. He even called Gurode to make sure he was OK. There was a thought that Gurode might press criminal charges against Haynesworth, but he decided against it.

"It's funny how those situations come up," said tight end Jason Witten, who also played college ball at Tennessee with Haynesworth. "Albert had to learn a lot from that situation, and [he] had a lot of changes. Andre, just how he handled the whole thing -- he was a pro about it."

The incident seemed to push Gurode and Haynesworth into higher planes on and off the football field.

Gurode didn't miss any games because of the injury, and he made his first of his three consecutive Pro Bowls after that season. Haynesworth, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, signed the richest contract for a defensive player (seven years, $100 million -- $41 million guaranteed) this past offseason with the Redskins.

Haynesworth and Gurode got to know each other while hanging out at those Pro Bowl games in Hawaii.

"We have talked before on the phone," Haynesworth said. "We have talked about it. Everything is between us."

Several of Gurode's teammates thought Haynesworth's kick to the face was a cheap shot. One former teammate, Jason Ferguson, thought the center could have been killed by the kick.

"It was a big deal. Nobody expects anything like that to happen," Gurode said. "My teammates rallied around me. It was bad judgment on his part. I got healthy, and we moved forward and got better."

The incident was shown over and over on numerous television stations. Gurode's mother, Mary, was in an airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with friends when she saw her son get kicked in the face. Gurode's father and uncle watched the game on television from Houston in shock.

Mary Gurode said at the time that the kick could have killed her son.

"It's something they are going to do," Gurode said of the repeated replays of the incident. "I expected that when he signed with the Redskins [that] when we played them that it was going to be brought up."

Gurode had blurred vision and headaches because of the injury. He wore a white bandage on his forehead until a plastic surgeon made his forehead good as new.

"Best one," Gurode said of his surgeon. "If not the best, then close to it."

Now, Haynesworth might be lining up opposite Gurode on Sunday.

"I'm sure he wants some [payback]," wide receiver Patrick Crayton said of Gurode. "I don't think he's looking at it as far as vengeance or anything. If he wins, that's enough."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail calvin.watkins@espn3.com.