WASHINGTON — Albert Haynesworth offered an unbridled look into his soul in a letter written to his “younger self” — penned for The Players’ Tribune — that is sure to cause waves in Washington.
The introspective piece stretches over 1,800 words and spotlights some watershed moments in life, but takes on a more advisory tone with the $100 million man warning his younger self of pitfalls which could derail his decade-long NFL career.
Haynesworth revisits a moment of personal controversy in 2006, when as a member of the Tennessee Titans he stomped on the head of Dallas Cowboys lineman Andre Gurode — opening a gash on Gurode’s forehead which would require 30 stitches to close — a moment which earned Haynesworth a five-game suspension and, as he describes, a reputation around the league for being “crazy.”
The play before, Haynesworth explains Gurode had clipped him from behind. He relayed his on-field back-and-forth with Gurode at the time:
You’ll get up, furious, and see that it’s the center, Andre Gurode, who hit you. This is an unspoken rule among lineman. You don’t do it. But maybe it was an accident. You say, “What the hell was that? You ain’t man enough to block me straight up?”
“Nah,” he’ll say, “I’m trying to put your ass out.”
“This will be one of the most significant moments of your life,” Haynesworth writes of the moments before he stomped out Gurode.
This real-life anecdote is merely used by Haynesworth as the backdrop to a series of regrettable career decisions — an explainer, of sorts — to show how a career-defining moment played a significant role in clouding his judgment for the future.
“If nothing else, listen to me on this, Albert: Do not leave the Tennessee Titans,” he writes. “Your defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a mastermind. No matter how much I tell you this, you’ll probably never realize it until your career is over, but it’s true. You’re like a system quarterback. You thrive in a very specific scheme. When you hit free agency, the Washington Redskins are going to offer you $100 million. Everyone will talk about this (they won’t talk about the fact that most of that money is not guaranteed, or that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered you $135 million). The $100 million will become a huge burden. Take less and stay in Tennessee where you belong.”
In longing for his time playing for the Titans, Haynesworth echoed similar thoughts he shared earlier this year with ESPN Nashville, when he told radio hosts the Redskins organization “took my love away from the game.”
His Players’ Tribune letter follows a similar narrative.
“When you get on that first phone call with Dan Snyder and the organization in Washington, it’ll be all good,” he wrote. “We want you to play just like you did in Tennessee, Albert. We’re going to let you loose and destroy the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles. That’s your job.”
That wasn’t the case, Haynesworth explained, likening the difference between Jim Schwartz and Greg Blache’s defenses in Tennessee and Washington as “the difference between a general physician and a cardiologist. Both doctors. One is just a little more sophisticated.”
Haynesworth granted himself further retrospective pardon in explaining the beginnings of his fractured relationship with Mike Shanahan, who was hired to coach the Redskins in 2010 and famously — and embarrassingly — required Haynesworth to pass a rigorous conditioning test as a prerequisite to the defensive lineman joining his teammates in Training Camp.
You’re going to look at this famous NFL head coach in total disbelief and say, “You want to pay me $100 million to grab the center?”
And he’s going to say, with a straight face, “Albert, if you have more than one sack this season, I’m going to be pissed.”
The last thing you’ll say before walking out of the office is, “Can’t you just pay someone $300,000 a year to do that?”
The whole thing, if taken at face value, is extremely sad and serves as cautionary tale — not only to a young Albert Haynesworth — but to athletes everywhere knocking on the door of life-changing money, and the incredibly heavy but unsympathetic burden that carries.
“You will lose your passion for football in Washington,” Haynesworth wrote. “And it will be impossible to get back. In retirement, you will discover that your financial advisor has squandered most of the money you made with the Redskins, and he will be under investigation for financial fraud.
“Thankfully, you will have discovered a passion for restoring houses and buying property during your offseasons. You’ll even open up a BurgerFi restaurant in Knoxville (I know you love burgers). Instead of being on the beach in the Bahamas, like most people probably think you are, you will be hanging drywall in a condo in South Carolina. And you know what? That will make you extremely happy.”
It’s highly suggested you read the full letter here.