Albert Haynesworth played 49 snaps
WASHINGTON -- The conditioning test was nothing compared to Albert Haynesworth's latest punishment.
In the final preseason game -- a game in which 31 of his teammates didn't even suit up -- Haynesworth went from start to finish in the Washington Redskins' 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night. The defensive lineman with the $100 million contract played 49 of 55 snaps on defense and was still on the field in the fourth quarter, huddling with third-stringers and no-hopers.
Haynesworth made jokes about his relationship with coach Mike Shanahan after last week's game, a signal that relations between the two were perhaps thawing a bit. This time, there was nothing to joke about. Haynesworth bit his tongue, declining comment to reporters after the game.
Receiver Anthony Armstrong, who has never played in an NFL regular season game but appears to be a sure bet to make the roster after a strong preseason, got the night off. So did rookie draft picks Trent Williams and Perry Riley, who, it could be argued, need all the experience they can get as they prepare for opening day.
Haynesworth did not.
Asked to explain the unusual workload for a player expected to be a major contributor, Shanahan sang a familiar refrain.
"He's got to get in football shape," Shanahan said. "For the same reasons we've talked about. We got to get him some playing time so he can get back in football shape. I got to take a look at the film to tell you exactly how he played, but that's one of the reasons he's playing defensive end and nose tackle positions.
"We've got to get him as good as he can possibly be and in football shape. There's only one way to do it and that's to practice and play."
Haynesworth's "football shape" has indeed been an issue in recent years, particularly since he signed with the Redskins in 2009, but the two words have also become the coaching staff's euphemism to express the need to make sure Haynesworth is buying into the party line after months of rebellious behavior.
Even though he stayed away from the offseason conditioning program, skipped a mandatory minicamp, needed 10 days of training camp before passing a conditioning test and made accusatory remarks directed at Shanahan after a game two weeks ago, Haynesworth is still expected to play a key role in the Redskins' new 3-4 defense.
Haynesworth initially bristled at the notion of playing in the 3-4 because he thought he would be used primarily as a space-eating nose tackle, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start at defensive end against Dallas on Sept. 12 -- assuming nothing else goes wrong.
At the very least, the Redskins now know he can play an entire game, something that wasn't always a given last year.
"We wanted to get him as many plays as we could," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "We played him at nose and end because guys are going to have to play multiple positions. I thought he held up. He came out early and after that, he stayed in and stuck with it. ... I think that's encouraging."
At least Haynesworth's roster spot is safe, which can't be said about most of the players on the field Thursday. Devin Thomas helped his cause with four catches for 34 yards and a 27-yard average on four kickoff returns. Hopefuls Terrence Austin and Brandon Banks each caught five passes, but Banks continued to offset his speed and heart by being careless with the ball, fumbling a punt and dropping a pass.
The most exciting player on the field for the Redskins was on-the-bubble linebacker Robert Henson, who had five tackles, a sack and two penalties before leaving the game with an injured right knee. He was to be reevaluated Friday.
"I felt like a guy in my position couldn't afford to be hurt," Henson said. "But ain't much you can do about it. I definitely kind of broke down when it happened. I was kind of emotional about it because I felt, like I said, I've got to make plays."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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