- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Albert Haynesworth arrived at the New Meadowlands Stadium with the Washington Redskins, the defensive lineman expected to play in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Haynesworth was listed as questionable on the injury report due to an illness, but said he was ready to go.
When defensive coordinator Jim Haslett took him aside and informed him that he would be inactive, Haynesworth said he was stunned.
"I thought it was a do-or-die situation that we needed to do everything to win, so yeah," he said.
Instead, the Giants beat Washington 31-7.
Washington coach Mike Shanahan said Haynesworth was inactive due to his illness.
"Well, he didn't practice on Friday, he was sick," Shanahan said. "On Thursday, he didn't have one of his better practices and we weren't sure what the reason was. I'm guessing it's because he was sick, because he didn't practice on Friday. Without practicing Friday and Thursday not having one of his better practices, we kept him inactive."
Haynesworth admitted that he was late to a meeting on Friday, which one report cited as a contributing factor to Haynesworth's benching.
"I was sick so I did show up a minute late," Haynesworth said. "But I don't think that's a reason to sit out."
Shanahan wouldn't discuss the lateness incident.
"I don't review that with you guys," Shanahan said. "Obviously, there's discipline within our team. Sometimes guys are late, guys are late all the time. If they do that, they have to deal with me and the consequences."
"You always want your best player playing at a high level," Shanahan said when asked if this would have been a particularly important game for Haynesworth to contribute.
Haynesworth also denied that he and Haslett had a heated exchange in the hallway as he was informed of his status for the game.
Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said that not having to contend with Haynesworth was a bonus for the Giants.
"We didn't know Haynesworth was going to be inactive," Jacobs said. "It was a big help to us. Of course he is always a problem down in the middle."
It's another chapter in the drama. The player who stands to make $41 million in guaranteed money, and has already collected $32 million of it, has been unable to see eye-to-eye with Shanahan in his first year as the Redskins coach.
Lineman Vonnie Holliday, a 13-year NFL veteran and respected voice on the team, said the two got off to a bad start.
"There's a lot of things that led up to this," Holliday said.
"All year it's been this rocky relationship, give and take, trying to get the ship going in one direction while at the same time someone's pulling against it -- but trying to include that person," Holliday said. "But it's tough."
Quarterback Donovan McNabb said that he doesn't pay attention to the discord between Shanahan and Haynesworth.
"We really don't pay too much attention to it," McNabb said. "Obviously, you guys will have a big story with it. It's something that runs on TV 24 hours. He's a brother of ours and he's in our locker room and we look to go to war with him.
"I didn't know much about the decision that was made until the beginning of the game when I saw him walking around in a sweat suit. The coach makes the decision. That's what we have to go by."
While McNabb might not pay attention, it's been an issue on the team. Haynesworth missed the team's mandatory minicamp, and when he arrived for training camp, Shanahan required the 6-foot-6, 335-pound lineman to pass the conditioning test. It took more than a week.
Since then, fitness and performance have been issues on the field. If Haynesworth was going to benefit from a star system, where he could miss mandatory team activities and be late for meetings, his performance better be able to compensate for it on Sunday afternoons, said one player.
But Holliday said Shanahan isn't the kind of coach to harbor a star system anyway.
"His behavior and his decisions maybe at times do not fit the Shanahan mold," Holliday said. "His decision not to come to workouts and minicamp and all those things, of course it was a distraction. And it put a coach in a tough situation when you have all the other guys who are part of the team, who are on board and doing things the right way, and you have one guy that's not. And unfortunately because it's a business you can't really do much about it."
Now at 5-7 and having lost four of their last five games, that discord may be having an effect. Haynesworth was clearly annoyed by the facts in front of him: the benching, the loss and continued tension between the lineman and the coach.
"It's whatever," Haynesworth said. "They chose to sit me then they chose to sit me. This is their organization, I'm just a piece."
Jane McManus is a columnist and reporter for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
When Albert Haynesworth arrived at the New Meadowlands Stadium with the Washington Redskins, the defensive lineman expected to play in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. He was stunned when he was told he wouldn't be playing.