Thursday, 9 September 2010

Albert Haynesworth is getting a raw deal

If you read Sports Illustrated or the papers or watch sports commentary on TV, Albert Haynesworth is universally reviled as the worst example of the new breed of selfish athletes who sign huge contracts and then don't live up to them. Walking, talking, breathing best example of 'person with no credibility' Deion Sanders just asked Marshall Faulk, on the NFL Network 8 hour pre-game show, "what happened to players signing contracts and then saying to themselves that they had to live up to them and show they deserved them", or words to that effect, while referring to him.

I don't want to spend a lot of time defending Mr. Haynesworth, as he is a reprehensible human being for other reasons, but this holier-than-thou preaching that he should 'honour' his contract is poppycock.

When Mr. Haynesworth was a free agent, he did not entertain any offers from any team that was running a 34 defense (3 linemen, four linebackers). He only negotiated with teams than ran a base 43 (four linemen, 3 linebackers). He signed a contract with the Redskins because they offered him a ridiculous pile of money, but also because they run a base 43, and have for years.

One reason was to preserve his health and avoid injuries. As a defensive tackle, he is expected to take on one blocker straight up, and penetrate gaps, at which he excels, whereas his role in a 34 would be that of a nose tackle, holding the middle, taking on two blockers consistently and getting frequently "caught in the wash" when bodies are flying around and likely to take out his knees. Careers are short enough, he knows that he is more likely to play longer and be healthier when he retires by refusing to play nose tackle.

Some people claim that it is a selfish desire to protect his stats, because by playing NT he would have fewer opportunities for tackles and sacks. While this might seem shallow and unsuitable for a player in a team game, this is what stars do. They get a lot of say in how and how much they are used. Albert, as a free agent under the rules collectively bargained by NFL owners and players, had every right to say to a team where and how he would be used.

Which brings us to a really important point: Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Redskins, didn't have to sign Mr. Haynesworth if he felt these demands were unreasonable. Instead, he gave him a contract he now regrets. He then hired coach Mike Shanahan who brought in a staff who want to install a 34, and force Mr. Haynesworth to play a position he specifically was assured by Mr. Snyder he would not have to. The villain here is Mr. Snyder, who should have informed Mr. Shanahan of the promise he made Mr. Haynesworth and his agents. The Redskins are the ones who didn't honour the contract, not Mr. Haynesworth.

NFL contracts in general are very one-sided. Players sign these and have to honour them, but teams can release these players before the contract ends, and not have to pay them. Some money is guaranteed, but most isn't. For most players, none of the amount is guaranteed. So if they overperform and play at a level higher than their compensation would indicate, they are locked in and must continue to play while being underpaid. If they underperform, and the team feels it's not getting the bang for the buck it deserves, it can cut the player and not have to pay him anymore.

The Redskins, and owner Daniel Snyder, are the ones who should be enjoined by the chorus of media shills to respect their contractual obligations.

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