Not long after word of the Patriots acquisition of Albert Haynesworth began to circulate, whispers of his past transgressions could be heard.
Whether it was his well-publicized clashes with coaches in Washington, an ugly head-stomping incident from his days in Tennessee or some ugly off-field troubles, it seemed everyone had an opinion on the Patriots newest defensive lineman.
Haynesworth, speaking to the media for the first time since arriving via trade with the Redskins, has heard those whispers of his days past as well, and he's looking forward to keeping them there.
"Everything is in the past. I'm leaving all that stuff back in Washington," Haynesworth said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on being a great player for this organization.
"Forget about all that stuff. It's all in the past," he added when questions persisted. "It's all about now, re-writing my name as Albert Haynesworth the Patriot."
The talented yet troubled former All-Pro will get a chance to do just that in New England, and he couldn't be happier. After enjoying sporadic success in Tennessee, where he was drafted by Patriots senior football advisor Floyd Reese, who was the Titans GM at the time, Haynesworth signed a mega-free agent deal with Washington prior to the 2009 season.
After a mediocre first season, he was greeted by new coach Mike Shanahan last year, and the two mixed like Snookie and alcohol. The pair clashed from the start. There were problems with the system, a conditioning run and just about anything else Shanahan tried to get Haynesworth to do. It was a lost season for everyone but Haynesworth's accountant, who still managed to collect roughly $34 million from the Redskins after two largely unproductive seasons.
Then Haynesworth awoke to an early morning text from his agent last week, and suddenly he was a Patriot.
"I's a great chance to be on a great team; it's a chance, I guess, to restore my name or whatever you want to say," Haynesworth said. "Just a great chance to get back on the field and play football."
Asked what he meant by restoring his name, he said, "Just to show that Albert Haynesworth can still play football."
One interesting development thus far at this early stage of camp is how he'll be doing so. While there's only been three full pads practices to this point, Haynesworth has line up as a defensive tackle in a true 4-3 set. He and Vince Wilfork have formed quite the imposing tandem on the inside – something Haynesworth said he joked about with his teammate a few years ago when there were together at the Pro Bowl and he now deems "scary for other teams."
Since some of his problems a year ago stemmed from his unwillingness to play in Shanahan's 3-4, the logical question is will New England be making a change? Based on his talk, that's irrelevant to Haynesworth.
"I don't know, just to kill the quarterback," Haynesworth said of his role.
"I'm willing to attack the quarterback and kill the running back and knock everything back," he added when asked about playing a two-gap scheme. "I don't care what it is. As long as whatever gap the ball's in, that's the gap I want to be in."
Interestingly, Haynesworth claimed he's always been a fan of the Patriots and admired the way Bill Belichick handles his team. In fact he was in attendance, thanks to tickets from former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, at the 2007 AFC title game victory over San Diego at Gillette Stadium.
Haynesworth spoke articulately about his desire to return to his disruptive style on the field and his fondness of the Patriots organization. He mentioned how happy he's been with the transition process thus far and spoke glowingly of conversations he's had with Belichick and Robert Kraft.
About the only sign of his mercurial past came off what appeared to be an innocuous question. Do you consider yourself a high-motor player?
"A high motor player is[former Titans teammate] Kyle Vanden Bosch. Guys who run around non-stop like they have batteries up their behind," Haynesworth said. "That's not me."
Aside from that, the newest member of the defensive line could not have handled himself any better. Now the question becomes, how long with that last?