|Titans' Haynesworth has much to prove after last season|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 24 May 2007 13:42|
``I haven't played a full season since my rookie year. I've just got to get back on the field and stay on the field. If I stay on the field and be productive, I'll be fine,'' Haynesworth said.
Staying on the field has been a problem for the six-year NFL veteran, the man most people remember for stomping his cleated foot onto the face of Dallas center Andre Gurode's unprotected face last October.
That act cost Haynesworth a five-game suspension, unprecedented in NFL history for an on-field act and more than double the previous such suspension.
But the Titans' first-round pick in 2002 hasn't played more than 14 games in a season since his rookie year, playing in 63 of 80 possible games because of injuries.
That is why Haynesworth has been working hard for months this offseason to be lean, strong and healthy for his sixth NFL season - the final year of his contract with the Titans.
``I want to get stronger and make sure there's no excuses why I get hurt ... That's why I want to make sure I'm strong. I'm in shape, and I'm here. I don't want to cram it in in the last two months. I want to be here for five or six (months),'' Haynesworth said.
The Titans like what they see from the tackle so far.
``He's worked hard,'' coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday after a workout. ``He's inside. He's here every day working hard, and that's good to see.''
Haynesworth can be one of the NFL's most disruptive tackles when he's healthy. Listed at 6 feet 6, 320 pounds, he started off 2006 with 27 tackles through the first three games and the first half on Oct. 1 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Then in one moment of rage, which he later said he couldn't explain, he put his foot down and swiped his cleat across Gurode's face as the center was on the ground with his helmet knocked off. Haynesworth was ejected, video of the moment replayed over and over, and criticism flowed in from around the world.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him 24 hours later, and he was required to undergo anger management counseling. The Titans told him he had to continue that counseling before they let him return once the suspension ended.
Haynesworth said at the time he returned that he learned to quit bottling up his feelings.
But sitting out six weeks, including the Titans' bye week, took its toll. He played in the final seven games and finished with 32 tackles in that stretch - good for 10th on the Tennessee defense. He had two sacks and 13 quarterback pressures on a defense that ranked last in the NFL.
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn said Haynesworth has been working hard. Asked if he's seen changes in the tackle, he said, ``I've always seen a lot of good in him.''
The Titans, who are several million dollars under the salary cap, haven't indicated yet if they want to sign Haynesworth to a contract extension.
Signing him before the season could bring them a bargain if he finally lives up to the potential seen when he was drafted with the 15th pick overall. Waiting to see what kind of season Haynesworth has risks the veteran becoming a free agent who could attract a very large pay day next spring.
Health will be a key. Injuries limited him to 12 games in 2003, 10 in 2004 and 14 in 2005. Staying healthy, not playing for a new contract, is what Haynesworth thinks of most.
``If you think about the money, then you're in it for the wrong reasons,'' he said.
Hearing Haynesworth talk of playing 16 games is the goal both Fisher and Washburn hope to see him reach.
``If he plays 16 games for us, he'll have a good year,'' Washburn said. ``And we'll have a good year.''
Notes: It's tough to miss what you never had. Quarterback Vince Young said when asked Thursday about missing out on veteran receiver Keyshawn Johnson, and he also was asked if he could go through the season with the young receivers on the roster. He said he's fine with that. ``Everybody else is doubting them. That's the good part about it. That keeps motivating them guys to go out every day to show they can do this and that,'' Young said.