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Haynesworth excited to have new start in Tampa Bay

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By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Albert Haynesworth is excited about having an opportunity to rekindle his NFL career with the Buccaneers.

The 350-pound defensive tackle practiced with his new team for the first time Thursday, saying he's motivated to leave behind two-plus disappointing seasons with Washington and New England and prove he can still be a productive player.

Haynesworth was released by the Patriots on Tuesday, claimed off waivers Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday against the Texans.

"I think I can be pretty effective," the 30-year-old, two-time Pro Bowl selection said. "I'm an older guy. I think they brought me here to play hard and also to teach some of the younger guys how to play, be somewhat of a mentor ... and show them the grass ain't always greener on the other side."

The 10th-year pro developed into one of the league's top defensive linemen during seven seasons with the Titans, but has underperformed since rejecting an offer from Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2009 and signing a seven-year, $100 million deal with the Redskins.

New England obtained him in a July trade, but Haynesworth had little impact in a part-time role and lasted just eight games with the Patriots.

"It was a great place. Coach Belichick is a great guy (with) a good system. But I just wanted to play more," Haynesworth said. "I wanted to practice more, get more reps. The more reps, the more plays I get, the better I'll get. I just wasn't getting a lot of reps, so they made the decision to let me go."

He's optimistic about the prospect of reviving his career with the Bucs, who are counting on him to help fill the void created by the loss of Gerald McCoy, who is out for the season with a torn right biceps.

Coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik believe Haynesworth still has the talent to excel in a 4-3 defensive scheme after struggling in 3-4 systems in Washington and New England.

"This is where I should have been like three years ago. But I think good things come to somebody that waits," Haynesworth said, confirming that Tampa Bay made an offer in free agency without recalling the terms. He did remember the biggest concern he had about joining the Bucs then.

"You want me to be honest? It was too pretty, too much water, too much sun," he said. "I had just bought a nice big boat ... and I really thought if I came here I'd mix my time between football and boating.

"When I was at Tennessee, it was football during football season. In the offseason, I'd do the boating, all my toys and playing around like that. With the water and the sun being here all year round, I was a little afraid of myself on a Tuesday going for a boat ride or something like that. That was honest. I should have trusted myself and known, but really I was kind of scared."

Morris would not speculate about how much Haynesworth might play against the Texans, who have the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack. But with McCoy's backup, Frank Okam, still not practicing because of a calf injury, Haynesworth could be on the field for 20 to 35 plays.

"It's not about what you want," Morris said of his expectations. "It's about what you can get them to get done, what you can get accomplished during the week and then throwing him out there to see what he can do for us. He just wants to be here and help his team win. He did a nice job today of getting out there in practice and doing some good things."

Tampa Bay (4-4) has lost three of its past four games, struggling to stop the run on defense and not generating much of a pass rush, either. The Bucs are next to last in the NFL with 12 sacks.

"I think it's a young, fast, talented team," Haynesworth said of his initial impressions of the league's youngest roster. "I think there's a lot of potential here. But like everybody knows, potential is nothing. We've got to capitalize on it."

 

©2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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