Albert Haynesworth’s stat line isn’t going to read like a Pro-Bowl credential sheet this year. It’s not going to list more than 100 tackles or 10-plus sacks or numerous quarterback pressures. It’s not going to be anywhere close to that; maybe not even half of that. But the stats don’t have to be there ?just the performance. The Washington Redskins are never going to get a return on their $100 million investment in Haynesworth, and that’s fine. We’re probably looking at his last season in the District anyway.

But while the stats don’t have to be there, the effort has to be ? no, better be ? there this season. No more wallowing on the ground in-between plays; no more commercial breaks where he’s huffing on the sidelines like he just ran from the Capitol to FedEx Field. Sorry, Albert, not this year.

Haynesworth is probably the most hated ‘Skin in the District right now, and in a town full of die-hard fans, it’s hard to be hated. But it’s understandable. Washington has this penchant for dishing out high dollars to guys whose careers fall off a cliff once they arrive in the capital. It’s been that way for years now, and Haynesworth’s no different.

But hopefully (and we can only hope), this serves as an eye opener to owner Daniel Snyder. “Dollar Dan” has never seen a player he couldn’t get, never seen a contract that wasn’t too much. He’s reeled in free agents through lavish courting and promises of career paydays but after this summer passes, he may have to rethink his business strategy. Will he change completely? Probably not, but Redskin fans have to remain patient while their owner learns NFL Franchise 101 on the fly. He’s gone on record regretting the Jim Zorn hire and expressing his displeasure in Haynesworth, so maybe his eyes are beginning to open a little. After last season, they better be wide open with bifocal lenses attached.

Last year’s home games at FedEx Field felt more like amateur auditions. The team was booed repeatedly and fans drunkenly scribbled their personal “love notes” addressed to Snyder on posters that read like funeral wishes. It was the type of season that anyone associated with the organization would’ve loved to ball up and throw out the window along Brightseat Road. But they couldn’t. It was one of those years that just wouldn’t end. Washington had everyone except for forensic scientists accessing its problems but people just couldn’t understand it. The money was there, the players were there but the performance…well, it just wasn’t.

The Redskins have done everything to sweep last season under the rug, but Haynesworth continues to remind everyone of a 2009 gone bad. He did finally pass his conditioning test on Aug. 7, so maybe that’s a start. He should be fresh and ready to serve this season (he better be; he rested nearly the whole summer). He’s slimmer, down a reported 35 pounds, and he should be motivated. When you have the town on your back, ex-players on your back, coaches and teammates on your back, you should be ready to explode on the field, right?

While all of this sounds good, don’t be lured by the hype. Welcome to Washington Redskin football, where looks don’t translate to performance. We see it all the time. Hopefully after this season, though, we won’t have to see it anymore.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO