Haynesworth apologizes, won't appeal suspension

Updated: October 5, 2006, 1:34 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Albert Haynesworth finally got the chance Tuesday to apologize personally to Dallas center Andre Gurode, whose face he tore open with his cleat.

Ex-Vols teammates not surprised
As he watched Albert Haynesworth stomping on the unhelmeted head of Andre Gurode during several Sunday night replay packages, an action now viewed as one of the most reprehensible in league history, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Darwin Walker was shocked by what he was seeing.

Shocked but not totally surprised.

"What people need to understand is that Albert is, and always has been, a really emotional guy," said Walker, who started next to Haynesworth at defensive tackle during their time together at the University of Tennessee. "And he's a guy who will let his emotions get the better of him. I'm not making any excuses for him, you know? But he's a guy who the older players had to take care of back [at Tennessee]. I tried to be a mentor to him. So did other [older] players. Because he needed that. And if he didn't have it, didn't have an older player or two looking out for him, that's when bad stuff happened."

Walker shook his head when asked about a 2000 incident in which Haynesworth, upset with Vols offensive tackle Will Ofenheusle, returned after practice, toting a long metal pipe and seeking out his teammate. That was, some former college teammates acknowledged, just one of several incidents in Haynesworth's campus career that shook them.

Haynesworth was considered a talented player whose competitive fire burned bright, but sometimes turned into an out-of-control inferno, said Green Bay Packers offensive left tackle Chad Clifton, another former Tennessee teammate.

"There were times when you knew that you wanted to steer clear of Albert, because he'd be so upset about something, and he'd let it get to him," Clifton said.

The players both emphasized that Haynesworth is not a bad person, but rather one who needs guidance, who has to understand he is going to be held accountable for every action, and who functions best when he is surrounded by a strong support group.

"I'm not condoning what Albert did," said Walker, who maintains a casual relationship with Haynesworth. "There are no excuses for something like that, and I won't try to make any. But even after being in the NFL for this many years now, I think he's still the kind of guy who needs people around him to help keep him in check. At Tennessee, we tried hard to provide that for him."

-- ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli

After spending much of the day getting nothing but unanswered rings and a full voice mail box, Haynesworth connected late in the afternoon with Gurode, who needed 30 stitches to repair the cuts in his face.

"Albert has been trying to reach him for the past couple of days," Haynesworth's agent, Chad Speck told ESPN.com's John Clayton on Tuesday. "He was apologetic and sympathetic."

Haynesworth was suspended five games without pay Monday by the NFL -- the longest-ever punishment in the NFL for on-field behavior -- for kicking Gurode's helmet off, then swiping his cleated foot on his face while he lay on the ground. Speck said Haynesworth wouldn't appeal, even though the NFL Players Association wanted him to try.

"He said Sunday night he would accept the league's decision of what to do from a discipline standpoint, and that's what he's going to do," Speck said.

The five-game suspension will cost Haynesworth $38,014 per game, or one-seventeenth of his 2006 base salary of $646,251.

That means Haynesworth will lose $190,070 for five games.

The NFL Players Association is studying the suspension, which is more than twice as long as the previous punishment for a player's misbehavior on the field. Green Bay lineman Charles Martin got two games for throwing Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon onto his shoulder in 1986.

"We're just in the fact-finding stage right now," NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said before Haynesworth's decision not to appeal.

"For what I did, whatever they give me, I deserve it. I did it, and it's wrong," Haynesworth said Sunday after he was ejected from the 45-14 loss to Dallas.

Haynesworth's agent gave the tackle's phone number to Gurode's agent and the Cowboys, hoping to connect the men. That finally happened, but Speck wouldn't detail the conversation and said he is leaving that to either Gurode or Haynesworth -- if they choose.

Gurode's agent, Kennard McGuire, did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The Dallas center plans to talk with his family about whether or not to press charges, his agent told Nashville police Monday.

The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that Gurode still had blurry vision Monday. Gurode said after the game Sunday that he would have gone back on the field if his vision had been clear.

But fans and even people who pay no attention to sports condemned Haynesworth's actions; many said five games wasn't enough. Haynesworth was replaced by a rookie teammate on his weekly radio show Tuesday night, which airs live from a shopping mall south of Nashville.

The Titans agreed to terms with Tony Brown on Tuesday as a replacement for Haynesworth on the defensive line. His suspension had left Tennessee with veteran Robaire Smith, Randy Starks in his third season and rookie Jesse Mahelona, who sprained a knee against Dallas. Brown is a two-year veteran who has four career starts and was most recently with Carolina.

"I let my team down," Haynesworth said Sunday. "I'm not saying that I'm the heart of this team, but I definitely let the team down."

The Titans asked the league to clarify the restrictions that would be on Haynesworth during the suspension, which will keep him off the field until Nov. 19, when the Titans visit Philadelphia. Players suspended for substance abuse violations cannot work out with their teams nor attend games, but it was not clear if those rules applied to Haynesworth.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said because there is no precedent for a suspension of this length for on-field activities, the NFL was researching what might apply and will get back to the team.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.