I am here to do the impossible. I'm here to defend Albert Haynesworth.
It won't be an easy job. Haynesworth is not a good guy. He never has been. He was suspended five games in 2006 for stomping Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode in the head, causing Gurode to get 30 stitches above and below his right eye.
At times, he's lazy. There are moments when Haynesworth would rather eat double fudge chocolate cake and drink cherry Pepsi than play football.
|Albert Haynesworth's fight with the Redskins is a preview of labor talks. (Getty Images)|
The Haynesworth case is significant because it demonstrates how ill-prepared players like him, Darrelle Revis, Chris Johnson and others, webbed in sticky contract disputes, are at handling their public relations and how smart NFL teams are at portraying them as greedy bastards.
And we all know that NFL teams are great charitable institutions, right? Not profit-making at all. The owners are all missionaries. According to published reports, the Redskins last year laid off dozens of people in several rounds of cutbacks. A number of NFL teams have cut staff because of the recession as well. Surely some of those jobs could've been saved but teams were trying to maximize profits.
When players get what they can it's seen as greed. Meanwhile teams milk every penny they can from fans.
These public squabbles are a peek into the future. It's inevitable that the negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement will turn highly bitter. Whichever side can frame their argument best and garner public support will have a major advantage.
The NFL's players will lose that PR battle if they continue to let management dictate the imagery and agenda.
Haynesworth's case exemplifies this. Maybe I'm not defending Haynesworth as much as saying there is plenty of blame to go around for the fact one of the biggest defensive free-agent signings ever is on his butt somewhere eating Pop Tarts instead of working out with the Redskins.
It was the Redskins, after all, that stupidly overpaid for Haynesworth. Classic Danny Snyder, throwing a wheelbarrow full of cash at a player everyone in the NFL knew was serially lazy.
The Redskins are getting what they deserve. Haynesworth deserves his share of the venom but the Redskins should be catching just as much heat because this situation was predictable.
In fact, in some ways, Haynesworth might be more in the right. Some media accounts say Snyder made certain promises to Haynesworth about the type of defenses Haynesworth would play. Haynesworth maintains Snyder went back on his word.
NFL Facts & Rumors: Blogs on Haynesworth
If that's true (and I believe it is), the Redskins' front office misled Haynesworth. He should still shut up and play but he has a right to be irritated if Snyder pulled a fast one.
And, again, Washington knew what it was getting with Haynesworth. This is what he does. He's a pouter. Anyone who has been around Haynesworth for five minutes knew what would happen once Washington handed him $41 million in guaranteed cash. Haynesworth was headed for the Entourage lifestyle. It was as predictable as the Redskins winning six games.
Haynesworth has declined to show up for offseason practices and the Redskins are now using his large salary -- the salary they willingly handed to Haynesworth -- against him in the media. Washington knows that struggling fans will have little sympathy for Haynesworth even though it was the idiot Redskins who paid him.
It certainly is a tad sniveling for a team to rip a player everyone knew was lazy once the player turns out to be lazy.
The Redskins are massaging public opinion the way a good chef kneads cookie dough. In an economy where millions have lost everything, no fan wants to hear a player whining about work when so many people are looking for a job.
The Washington Post asked Redskins fans who was to blame for this mess, and 84 percent of the 6,400 respondents selected Haynesworth over the nine percent that picked the team. The remainder said there wasn't enough information yet.
When Haynesworth signed his contract he told the media, "You're not going to remember Albert Haynesworth as a bust."
It might already be too late for that.
But the Redskins, the offseason champions yet again, are busts right along with him.