The conflict between two strong wills — the unyielding coach and the player with the $100 million contract — escalated this weekend when Haynesworth expressed defiant frustration at being repeatedly singled out by the coach. Shanahan responded by saying things aren't going to change.
Haynesworth fired first, breaking a week of silence after Saturday night's 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The two-time All-Pro defensive lineman essentially accused Shanahan of mischaracterizing the reason Haynesworth couldn't practice last week. Haynesworth suggested Shanahan did it to make the Redskins organization "look good" and to make him "look bad" because he didn't participate in the offseason conditioning program.
Shanahan last week gave a variety of reasons why Haynesworth didn't practice for 2½ days, eventually chalking it up to "more of a headache than anything else." Haynesworth said Shanahan "left out a whole lot of stuff" but didn't say what. Multiple reports said Sunday that Haynesworth was suffering from rhabdomyolysis, a muscular condition whose symptoms included weakened, stiff or aching muscles.
The Redskins had previously said Shanahan would not discuss the matter until Monday. He was not made available to local reporters Sunday, but he talked about Haynesworth in an interview with AOL Fanhouse.
Asked about the reports that Haynesworth has rhabdomyolysis, Shanahan said: "Not aware of that."
Shanahan went on to reiterate a point he has made before: Haynesworth has to practice if he wants to play.
"Albert has gotten away in the past with playing without practicing," Shanahan said. "That will not happen under this regime. If he's going to play, he's going to practice, and that is the same with every player here. The days of him playing without practicing are over."
Haynesworth has been a thorn in Shanahan's side since the coach took the Redskins job in January. Haynesworth drew Shanahan's ire by staying away from the offseason program and later lobbied for a trade because he didn't want to play nose tackle in the team's new 3-4 defense. Shanahan gave Haynesworth a chance to leave — provided Haynesworth didn't stay around to accept a $21 million contract bonus on April 1. Haynesworth took the bonus.
Haynesworth also skipped a mandatory minicamp and was fined. When he showed up for training camp, he was made to pass a conditioning test before he could practice. After several failed attempts and several days of idleness because of a sore knee, he finally passed the test on the 10th day of camp.
Then came last week's setback, when Haynesworth stood to the side over three days of practices with neither player nor coach giving a clear explanation of what was going on. During three weeks of camp, Haynesworth completed only five of 13 full practices.
Haynesworth also isn't happy that he's having to practice and play with the backups. His appearances in the two preseason games came after the starters had left. He said it's another way his offseason boycott is being held against him.
"I'm a ninth-year pro," Haynesworth said Saturday. "I don't think I should have been out there in the third quarter. But, for having 'headaches' again, that was what they wanted to do."
Shanahan said Haynesworth is "going to have to earn his way" to play with the starters.
There's no telling when that might happen, or whether the Redskins — who are hoping to a make a fresh, positive start under a new coach — can tolerate the Shanahan-Haynesworth feud much longer without it having a substantial impact on the team.
One thing is clear: Haynesworth isn't giving up. The offseason program will apparently be an issue again in 2011.
"Next year," he said, "I'm not coming either."
Assuming he's still with the team.
Notes: Starting FS Kareem Moore is expected to be out several weeks with a right sprained knee. He was injured during the Ravens' fake punt play that netted a 51-yard gain. ... FB Mike Sellers injured his left knee during the game, although his injury is not thought to be as serious. Nevertheless, the Redskins are expected to announce the signing of seventh-year FB Carey Davis on Monday. ... On a busy day — considering there was no practice — the Redskins also fired one of their main PR men, executive director of communications Zack Bolno.