New attitude for Albert Haynesworth

Washington Redskins’ Albert Haynesworth is seen on the sidelines as the Redskins play a pre-season game against the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field in Washington on August 13, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Albert Haynesworth is saying all the right things in New England:

To this point, Belichick has liked what he’s seen from Haynesworth.

“Albert has worked hard. I think that it’s coming (along),” Belichick said. “We’ve got a long way to go, so just take it day by day, but I think he’s doing fine.”

Numerous times in the team’s last two practices, Haynesworth has broken through the line to disrupt a play. He explained that he’s still getting his legs under him, but that the role reminds him of what he played in Tennessee, which would signal a Patriots shift to a 4-3 alignment, with Haynesworth in a disruptive role lining up shaded on the center or guard.

Haynesworth said he first got word of the trade to New England in a text message at 6:30 a.m., and was excited for the chance to play for Belichick.

“I always liked Coach Belichick, just the way he did things, the way the team performed, the way he handled the team and everything,” he said. “Now being on the inside, he’s very detail oriented and he demands perfection every time. I’ve been on some really good teams, with a lot of great players, but I’ve never been in a situation where it’s like perfection every time, not for a person but for the team.”

Haynesworth passed the Patriots’ conditioning test Sunday and said he feels like he’s in good shape, although there is still some rust to shake off.

In Washington, he expressed reservations about playing nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment. Asked if he’s willing to play in a 3-4 in New England, he responded, “I’m willing to attack the quarterback and kill the running back, knock everything back. Whatever gap the ball is in, that’s the gap I want to be in.”

Haynesworth said one aspect that has surprised him since arriving in New England last Thursday is how welcoming everyone has been.

Maybe he’ll revert to his old self, but context is everything in life, and Haynesworth seems to understand that he has a real opportunity here.

This also shows a real contrast between Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan. I blame Shanahan and the Redskins for most of the problems last season with Haynesworth. Sure, the guy can be a real jerk, but he’s a dominating force as a 4-3 tackle, yet Shanahan insisted on playing him as a nose tackle in the 3-4. It was idiotic, and it helps to explain why Shanahan went through defensive coordinators in Denver like hot women go through shoes. In contrast, Belichick will happily alter his scheme to fit his talent. He wasn’t always like that. I had to suffer watching him coach the Browns back in the 90s, but he obviously became a better coach through the years. Shanahan on the other hand seems to be regressing as his ego grows.

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Albert Haynesworth to the Patriots

Washington Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth (L) walks off the field during the third day of their NFL football training camp in Ashburn, Virginia July 31, 2010. According to the website, Haynesworth did not take his third attempt to pass a team conditioning test today, and will rest his legs before attempting the test again August 1. Man on right is unidentified. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Like Mike Florio, I like this trade (not yet confirmed) for both teams.

As Florio points out, people will give Bill Belichick the benefit of the doubt. Other teams would likely be criticized for taking on this head case.

That said, Belichick will likely use Albert Haynesworth properly, avoided the idiotic showdowns in Washington where defensive offensive “genius” Mike Shanahan tried to make this elite interior pass rusher into a hole-clogging nose tackle.

As resident Patriots homer expert Rosenthal points out, the Pats use a 4-3 front roughly half the time. Thus, Haynesworth likely will be a part-time player, but he possibly will be in the alignment he prefers 100 percent of the time that he’s on the field.

And while there’s no way he’d be asked to play the nose tackle position in New England’s 3-4 alignment, thanks to the presence of Vince Wilfork, Belichick surely wouldn’t expect Haynesworth to be a traditional lineman-occupying presence at defensive end in that formation. That’s where Belichick’s brain becomes important. When a player doesn’t like a certain type of system, it’s because he doesn’t play as well in that system. So instead of forcing Haynesworth to eat his brussel sprouts, Belichick will find ways to let Haynesworth get the most out of his talents. Who knows? Maybe that will mean periodically lining him up on the edge in obvious passing situations and letting him maul a tackle one-on-one and chase down the quarterback.

Belichick understands the concept of calculated risks. His team needs a pass rush, and this move makes sense.

Meanwhile, the Redskins are looking for a fresh start, so this helps. We haven’t seen them break the bank yet with idiotic free agent signings, so maybe new GM Bruce Allen might be taking control from Mr. Ego Daniel Snyder.

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