Some folks amplify their gifts. Others waste them. Albert Haynesworth is a very wasteful man.
The towering defensive tackle is playing for his fourth team in 10 years and third in the past three, a remarkable statistic when you consider that many NFL personnel people will tell you he is the most gifted defensive tackle in the game. His problem is he squanders those gifts, unwilling to work hard enough to enhance them and unable to subjugate his ego long enough to exhibit them.
The Patriots are a team crying out for defensive help. They are ranked 32nd in the NFL in total defense only because there are only 32 teams in the league. If there were 50, they'd be 50th. Yet head coach Bill Belichick finally couldn't stand the sight of Haynesworth lying on the ground any longer after it happened on three consecutive plays a week ago in a loss to the Giants.
When Haynesworth came to the sidelines he was upbraided by Belichick and nodded in agreement, but when position coach Pepper Johnson jumped him moments later, Haynesworth fired back as if there was some defense for his actions. There was none and soon there was no Albert, exiled to the bench for the game's final 20 minutes and cut two days later.
His brief time in New England ended with three tackles in six games and more missed practices than made ones. His effort was not dissimilar to what it was the previous two years in Washington, where he dogged it so often they considered changing the name on his jersey to Rin Tin Tin.
Haynesworth left Washington with nearly $40 million of Daniel Snyder's money without having earned a penny of it. The Patriots were more fortunate. He only stole about $800,000 from them.
Players like Haynesworth are particularly vexing because their talent is vast. At any moment he is capable of destroying not only an offensive lineman but an offense's game plan. Those moments have been few and far between since he left the Titans, where for a year and a half he was the best defensive lineman in football.
Then he got paid like it and became the biggest dog in football. Always it was someone else's fault. It was the Redskins playing the 3-4 when he was a 4-3 guy. It was the Redskins playing a 4-3 but not his kind of 4-3. It was the Patriots' 4-3 not being like the Titans' 4-3.
Yet talent, like a lie, dies hard. That's why last week Haynesworth was unemployed for less than 24 hours in the second worst economy in U.S. history. But even though Haynesworth doesn't understand it, things are different now.
Tampa Bay signed him with no intention of keeping him beyond this season. In fact, their GM said they wouldn't have claimed him at all had rookie Gerald McCoy not gone on I.R. the previous Sunday. Haynesworth, meanwhile, continued to live in self-delusion.
He claims he still wants to prove himself. He said all he wanted to do in New England was practice and play more but a sore back (which is the result of a massive front) and a plethora of other defensive linemen precluded it.
Reality check for Albert: The only thing that precluded Albert Haynesworth from being what he should be was Albert Haynesworth, a man who doesn't respect his gifts or himself much at all.