|Grown up or greedy? Haynesworth playing best yet|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 September 2007 11:25|
Not like 2006, when he became infamous for losing his temper on the field and swiping his cleated foot across the unprotected head of Dallas center Andre Gurode.
No, the man who served an unprecedented five-game suspension as punishment is dominating on the defensive line.
It's easily the best start of his six-year career, and his timing couldn't be better. He's in the final year of his contract trying to convince the Titans he deserves an extension. With people watching and waiting to see if he'll explode again, Haynesworth finally is hearing some praise.
``It did feel good. I heard a lot of people talk about it. ... Our media relations guy was like, `They were talking a lot about you. Don't get a big head if I give you a copy of the game,''' Haynesworth said.
``That's not going to affect anything to go out and keep playing like that. I think I've found a good technique that allows me not to get beat up and make more tackles.''
His numbers are impressive.
Haynesworth is tied for fourth on the Titans with 18 tackles, including 12 solo. He has a sack and a team-high eight quarterback pressures, and he is a big reason why Tennessee is vastly improved on defense, giving up 63.3 yards rushing per game during a 2-1 start.
``He's in really good shape, and he's been very, very disruptive,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
``It's nice to be able not to have to bring safeties down and be concerned about the run when your front, especially starting with Albert and the rest of his teammates up there, are handling the run game.''
This is what the Titans expected when they drafted the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Haynesworth with the 15th pick overall in 2002 out of the University of Tennessee. But so far, no Pro Bowl berths he talked of earning have come, and he's still working to play an entire season for the first time as a pro.
He was playing well a year ago in a season that will be remembered for how he lost control Oct. 1 in a bad loss to the Cowboys, the fourth in an 0-5 start. The suspension, three games more than any given for an on-field act, kept him away from the Titans for six weeks because of their bye week.
Fisher was among those upset by Haynesworth's outburst. A former player himself, Fisher thought Haynesworth crossed the line on the field. Gurode wound up with 30 stitches to close cuts on his face.
Haynesworth had to continue anger management counseling to return to the team. He played well enough after the return, but not as good as he had been.
He started the offseason in good shape, determined to live up to his own expectations.
The Titans are waiting to see if Haynesworth can be consistent, which is why a contract extension hasn't been worked out to keep him from hitting the free agent market in 2008. If he keeps playing like this, that could happen before the season ends.
Teammate Keith Bulluck said Haynesworth has been wreaking havoc. Haynesworth repeatedly was praised by broadcasters during the Titans' 31-14 win at New Orleans on Monday night, when the Saints rushed for 34 yards.
Bulluck has seen Haynesworth, a father of three, mature into someone wanting to make up for his earlier mistakes.
``He is one of those guys, he doesn't hide his emotions like myself. But I think he learned from his mistake last year. ... He's older, he's more mature now, and a lot of these younger guys are looking at him. And he knows people all over the country are looking at him,'' Bulluck said.
That might be why Haynesworth was flagged for roughing in the season opener for throwing Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew to the ground for a tackle. Fisher defended the tackle, saying Jones-Drew might've kept running if not tackled strongly.
The NFL fined Haynesworth $5,000, which the tackle is appealing.
Haynesworth knows the officials likely are watching him very closely.
``I'm not going to worry about it. If you let it affect your game, you're worrying about that stuff. You're not going out there playing 100 percent. You go out and play 100 percent,'' he said.
``If I have a chance to slam somebody, I'm going to do it and ... worry about it later.''