FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Albert Haynesworth would have been happy just to get away from Washington.
Leaving the Redskins for a Super Bowl contender has him downright thrilled.
“It’s a great chance to be on a great team,” Haynesworth said. “It’s a chance to restore my name or whatever you want to say. It’s a great chance to get back on the field and play football.”
Haynesworth spoke to a throng of reporters crowded around him on the practice field Tuesday, his first public comments since the Patriots picked up the sometimes-troubled defensive tackle in a trade with the Redskins last week.
Disgruntled in Washington, Haynesworth seemed delighted to be in New England and said he hopes to keep his history of troubles on and off the field from resurfacing with his new team.
The Patriots have turned around discipline cases before and were willing to take on the risks for the gargantuan tackle they hope to be wreaking havoc on quarterbacks other than their own.
“Forget about that stuff. It’s all in the past,” Haynesworth said. “It’s all about now rewriting my name as Albert Haynesworth the Patriot.”
Haynesworth clashed hard last season with Washington coach Mike Shanahan. His new boss in New England is Bill Belichick, who is hardly the warm and fuzzy type.
But both player and coach said their initial meeting went well and they feel Haynesworth is a good fit with the Patriots.
“Albert has worked hard. I think that it’s coming,” Belichick said Tuesday. “We’ve got a long way to go, so just take it day-by-day, but I think he’s doing fine.”
Haynesworth practiced with the Patriots for the first time on Sunday. The team had Monday off, but Haynesworth and his new teammates were back on the practice field Tuesday.
Haynesworth had a tumultuous season in Washington last year, starting with a prolonged delay at the beginning of training camp when he needed 10 days to pass his conditioning test. He also feuded with coach Mike Shanahan throughout the season and has had a number of legal troubles.
But he can still dominate at defensive tackle and the Patriots have welcomed him to training camp, although quarterback Tom Brady wanted to set a few things straight early.
“I said ‘Hey Tom, what’s up?’ And he was like, ‘Hey, you’re not going to be hitting me anymore,”’ Haynesworth said.
Haynesworth had a number of similar quips during the interview Tuesday, showing his sense of humor and just how happy he is to join the Patriots.
Belichick declined to get into specifics on Haynesworth’s history, which included a suspension for stomping on an opponent’s face while a member of the Tennessee Titans in 2006.
“Not speaking on any particular player, but as I’ve said many times, anytime you bring a person into the organization, you have to feel comfortable doing that and that encompasses a lot of different things,” Belichick said.
“In the end, you go through the process, you get any information that you can acquire through whatever those sources are. And you evaluate the player, evaluate your team, evaluate the situation, and if you decide to bring that player onto your team, then you do that with the expectations that it will work out.
“And if you don’t, then you don’t and he’s not on your team. It’s not one thing, it’s a process.”