Titans want Haynesworth to return bonus money

Updated: October 7, 2006, 12:06 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans want back some of Albert Haynesworth's bonus money. And that might be just the start of the paybacks.

Albert Haynesworth

Coach Jeff Fisher told a national radio show Thursday that Haynesworth -- the defensive tackle suspended five games by the NFL for stomping on Dallas center Andre Gurode's face -- may never be back in the building again. Team spokesman Robbie Bohren also said the Titans are investigating their options.

"We've moved on," Fisher said after practice Friday. "I have no intention of addressing the Haynesworth issue now or at anytime between now and the time he comes back. I'm done with Albert, and this team is moving on. As far as specifics on his future, I'm not going to comment any further on that," Fisher said.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, punishment from the commissioner overrides any team sanctions.

But Haynesworth's stomp of a player while defenseless on the ground without his helmet left Gurode with 30 stitches and cost Haynesworth $190,000 in lost salary. It also has resulted in unanimous condemnation and calls for the Titans to fire the tackle.

Fisher's comments make it appear the Titans may be thinking of doing just that, or he's trying to sound as if he's cracking down to send a message to his winless, struggling team.

Seven games will remain when Haynesworth is eligible to return on Nov. 13 and play against Philadelphia. The Titans could deactivate Haynesworth each week, which the Philadelphia Eagles did to Terrell Owens last December after he served a team suspension.

In 2004, Dallas released quarterback Quincy Carter on Aug. 4 after reports of a failed drug test. Tampa Bay deactivated receiver Keyshawn Johnson for the final six games in 2003 and told him not to show up at the stadium.

The Titans could release Haynesworth, even though he's under contract for 2007 for $5.5 million. Considering he started the first four games, that could be fought by Haynesworth and the players' union.

General manager Floyd Reese referred reporters to Fisher to clarify his comments that Haynesworth might not be back. Reese said he didn't think any decision would be made on Haynesworth until his suspension ends. Asked if a team could release a player after a suspension, he said a team could do what it wants.

"Ultimately that is Mr. Adams' decision," Reese said of team owner Bud Adams. "I think it has been pretty well documented on what this has done not only to Albert but us and the league. It has been a tremendous embarrassment to everyone involved."

That is why Haynesworth's agent, Chad Speck, and the NFL Players Association received notification Friday that the Titans want back a percentage of his bonus equivalent to the five games he will miss starting Sunday.

The club is expected to seek at least 5/17, or about $323,529, of his prorated bonus of just under $1.1 million for this season, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported. Haynesworth has received $5.5 million in bonus money since he signed with the Titans as a first-round draft pick in 2002 on a six-year deal that runs through 2007.

"We received written notification that he was in default of his contract," Speck said.

The agent said he is waiting for another letter from the Titans detailing what they want back.

Haynesworth has apologized for scraping his cleat across Gurode's face last weekend in a 45-14 loss to Dallas. Haynesworth apologized again at a news conference Thursday where he promised he will be counseled for his on-field anger.

Speck has heard Fisher's comments on Haynesworth possibly not returning.

"Those are decisions the Titans will have to make. That's out of our control. All Albert can do is again moving forward with the things he discussed (Thursday) at the press conference ... and make sure he's in the best shape of his life when he returns," Speck said.

Haynesworth can help himself if he returns in the best shape of his life.

"There's a lot of issues to go through," Reese said. "I'm not sure that we can make a decision five weeks ahead of time."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.