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Titans' Haynesworth gets five-game suspension

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 2, 2006) -- Albert Haynesworth's temper has landed him in trouble with teammates and coaches before. By stomping another player's head, the Tennessee Titans defensive tackle not only disgusted himself, he also drew a five-game suspension -- the longest for on-field behavior in NFL history.

And that may just be the beginning of the grief for Haynesworth, who fell to the Titans in the middle of the first round of the 2002 draft because of maturity questions.

The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Haynesworth stomped on Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode's head Oct. 1, knocking off his helmet, then kicked and stomped his face. Gurode needed 30 stitches to repair the cuts left by the tackle's cleats, and plans to talk with his family about whether or not to press charges, his agent told Nashville police Oct. 2.

The league suspended Haynesworth for five games -- more than twice the length of the previous longest suspension -- for flagrant unnecessary roughness. He won't be paid while he serves the suspension, effective immediately, which will cost him approximately $190,000.

"There is absolutely no place in the game, or anywhere else, for the inexcusable action that occurred in yesterday's Titans-Cowboys game," new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Haynesworth's previous problems had been hidden from attention because they took place in practice. As a sophomore at Tennessee, he fought with a teammate and left practice, returning with a long pole looking for tackle Will Ofenheusle before coach Phillip Fulmer stopped him. He was suspended for half a game.

During 2003 Titans training camp, Haynesworth kicked center Justin Hartwig, now with Carolina. Charges for a road rage incident earlier this year were dismissed.

But the stomping, shown repeatedly in television replays, has brought nearly unanimous condemnation, the unprecedented suspension and possibly criminal charges and a civil lawsuit.

Nashville police and the district attorney contacted the Cowboys' general counsel, offering their assistance to Gurode in prosecuting Haynesworth. The Cowboys declined to comment on the suspension.

Before the suspension was announced, Gurode wasn't in the Dallas locker room. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said the center lifted weights and could practice Oct. 4. Before the suspension came down, linebacker Greg Ellis, the players' union representative, said he had talked with Gurode and thinks it is worth pressing charges if things don't get properly resolved with the league.

Haynesworth was penalized and ejected from the game early in the third quarter after stomping on Gurode's head, causing his helmet to pop off, then kicking him again following a 5-yard touchdown run by Julius Jones of the Cowboys.

"What I did out there was disgusting," Haynesworth said Sunday. "It doesn't matter what the league does to me. The way I feel right now, you just can't describe it."

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Haynesworth learned of the suspension a few minutes before the league's announcement and that the tackle was remorseful and embarrassed. But he called Haynesworth's actions unacceptable.

"I felt there needed to be some serious action taken from a discipline standpoint, and I believe that what the league has done right now is adequate," Fisher said.

"Five games and five paychecks is substantial."

Jones' touchdown put Dallas up 20-6 in what wound up as a 45-14 victory. Gurode said after the game they hadn't been talking or having any exchanges that led to Haynesworth's actions.

Parcells said Fisher apologized to him and the team after the game. He also thought Haynesworth was contrite after the game, which he was glad to hear.

"Other than that," Parcells said, "it was unfortunate."

Dallas nose tackle Jason Ferguson agreed a suspension was needed and that nothing should push a player that far.

"With the head uncovered, you don't go for that. You're not trying to kill anybody out there," Ferguson said.

The Titans can replace the five-year veteran on the roster, but he has been a starter since late in his rookie season. Fisher did not know if rules used for players suspended for substance abuse will apply in this situation.

While the Titans had other evidence that something like this was coming, Fisher said Haynesworth had been making progress in recent years.

"I am shocked and appalled for this to take place regardless ... whether there have been behavioral issues in the past or not. To me, there's no place for this type of condition on the field," Fisher said.

The longest previous suspension for on-field behavior was two games for Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin for throwing Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon to the ground during a game on Nov. 23, 1986.

It's the first suspension since 2002 when Rodney Harrison, then with San Diego, was suspended one game for hitting Oakland's Jerry Rice with his helmet. Earlier that season, Denver's Kenoy Kennedy was suspended for a game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Chris Chambers of Miami.

If charges are brought against Haynesworth, it wouldn't be the first time police got involved following an on-field incident.

In the NHL, Todd Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to causing body harm in Vancouver and missed 20 NHL games for a blindside punch that left Colorado forward Steve Moore with broken bones in his neck. And Marty McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon also by Vancouver authorities for slashing Vancouver's Donald Brashear in the head with his stick in February 2000.

Haynesworth will be eligible to return Nov. 19 for the Titans' game at Philadelphia.

"There is absolutely no place in the game, or anywhere else, for the inexcusable action that occurred in yesterday's Titans-Cowboys game," Commissioner Goodell said.

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