The NFL is full of guys like Albert Haynesworth. They’re anonymous relatively faceless linemen who battle at the sport’s point of attack each week with little-to-no notoriety. A local fan might know his team’s starting offensive and defensive linemen. Might. More likely, they know the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, the glamour guys. Corners are sexy, too. As are linebackers and defensive ends. Linemen? They’re the NFL’s Invisible Men.
This is Haynesworth’s fifth season, all with Tennessee, and I’m not ashamed to say I’d never heard of him until Sunday night. That’s when, like most folks, I saw all 6-6, 300-plus pounds of him acting like Godzilla marching through downtown stomping on skyscrapers, and Cowboy center Andre Gurode – another NFL ghost – was the Chrysler Building. Gurode was rolling about on the ground following the end of the play, the kind of collateral damage that follows every play. He had done his job, helping Cowboy RB Julius Jones scored from the five-yard line.
Haynesworth had not done his job, and he apparently knew it. What happened next deserves all of the adjectives that have been used to describe what the Tennesee lineman did: He stomped on Gurode’s head, forcing his helmet off, then stomped on the man’s face. Fortunately (if you can even use such a word in this twisted act) Gurode only needed 30 stitches, and not a new eye. Or worse.
Yesterday, NFL rookie commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the stiffest penalty for an on-field act in league history. Five games.
Was it enough? During my appearance Monday on “Daily News Live,” the other panelists and host railed that he should have been tossed out for the entire season. I stated that the fine was fair. Half a season would have been more fair, but I thought the penalty – which will cost the player about $5ook – fit the crime, given that it was Haynesworth’s first offense.
Or so I thought. Apparently when Haynesworth said afterwards, “That wasn’t me,” he wasn’t entirely truthful. In fact he fell to the second round of the 2002 draft due to questions about his maturity. At the University of Tennessee he returned to practice with a long pole looking for a teammate with whom he’d just had a fight. In what can only be described as a pathetic and wimpy response, he was suspended for half a game.
During Titans training camp in 2003 he kicked center Justin Hartwig, who now plays for Carolina. And earlier this year, charges of road rage against Haynesworth were dropped.
Haynesworth was properly contrite following the game, admitting what he did was wrong and acknowledging that he’s embarrassed the league, his team, his family and pretty much anyone else he could think of. But it looks as if the frightening, no-longer-invisible figure that could have severely injured, maimed or even killed a fellow competitor is him. And that may be the most frightening thing of all.