Some of you are misled by the head of this piece, “Big Al.” This is not about the gangster known as Scarface who came to prominence during prohibition in Chicago. This is about none other than 6-feet, 6-inch, 335-pound Albert Haynesworth, nose tackle for the Washington Redskins. Since joining the ‘Skins, he has carved out a reputation for being a nonconformist. Quite a bit of the hoopla over his behavior centers around the fact that his position has been changed.
When I heard this, I jumped on my white horse preparing to ride to the rescue. This was prompted by my dislike for Coach Mike Shanahan, who has a reputation for a “my–way- or- the- highway” attitude. When Haynesworth complained that he was uncomfortable in the new position, it seemed to me that Shanahan would take a look at the films and remember that this guy is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and the team paid him $100 million over seven years to bring that talent to the District.
I was feeling a certain amount of empathy towards the big guy because I faced a similar situation when I was in school. I am 6-feet, 4-inches tall, or 6-feet, 5-inches depending on what shoes I am wearing. I played guard on the basketball team, and had somewhat of a glamorous career. My coach decided to try me at small forward, and it was then that I knew what a fish out of water felt like. I was fortunate enough to have a coach who recognized that I didn’t turn into a dummy overnight and corrected the problem immediately.
Before I uttered the words “giddy up” to my trusted steed, I began to pay attention to this nagging in my brain that was saying, “There is something wrong with this picture.”
Since “Big Al” had played for the Titans before coming to Redskins Park, he wasn’t one of the players I was keeping warm on the back burner for future column material. The more I thought about it, the more I was tugged towards a little research. As soon as I saw his name connected with a stomping incident, the floodgates opened.
In 2003, he kicked his teammate Justin Hartwig in the chest and had to be restrained by other teammates. And, this was just training camp.
In October 2006, after Dallas Cowboys running back Julius Jones scored a touchdown, Dallas center Andre Gurode fell to the ground. His helmet came off and Haynesworth tried to stomp on Gurode’s head but missed. A second stomp landed on Gurode’s forehead and opened a severe gash just missing his eye. The referee assessed Haynesworth with a 15-yard penalty, and Al responded by throwing his helmet to the ground. An additional 15 yards was added and Al was ejected.
Gurode received 30 stitches in his face to repair the damage, and Al received a five-game suspension. He apologized and that seemed to pacify Gurode who refused to pursue criminal charges.
In September 2007, Haynesworth was called for unnecessary roughness for slamming running back Maurice Jones-Drew to the ground after a tackle. He was fined $5,000 by the NFL and remarked that he wouldn’t be any gentler; he just might help them up.
Since coming to the Redskins, he has been penalized twice for unnecessary roughness. On a personal note, Big Al has survived five arrest warrants stemming from traffic charges. Clayton Bank & Trust is suing the big guy for $2.4 million and to add icing on the cake a New York stripper issued a $10 million lawsuit claiming that Al left her pregnant and broke.
On Dec. 7 the Redskins suspended Haynesworth for the rest of the season without pay.