Even before the rift between Albert Haynesworth and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan ratcheted up over the weekend, the defensive lineman's behavior since opting to skip mandatory and voluntary offseason workouts has annoyed players well beyond the nation's capital.
Several players around the league have told me that Haynesworth is viewed as a major hurdle to the cause of future free agents landing big contracts. Owners, they contend, will be overly reluctant to pay large deals to guys out of fear of them responding like Haynesworth has. In fact, a lot of players feel it's a foregone conclusion.
"He's ruined it for everyone after him," a high-profile player told me over the weekend, echoing a sentiment I've heard throughout training camps.
Even worse, the perception -- and it might very well be reality -- is that Haynesworth doesn't care because $32 million of the $100 million free-agent deal he signed with the Redskins is already in his bank account.
As for the Haynesworth/Shanahan rift, it doesn't appear headed anywhere good. Haynesworth's public claim that the team was downplaying health issues that resulted in him missing practice last week is a pretty brazen salvo, even if true. NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported on Sunday that Haynesworth is likely suffering from rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscled fibers could harm the kidneys in severe cases. Shanahan told AOL Fanhouse that he was not "aware" of the condition.
Teams like to keep medical situations in-house, routinely downplaying injuries and conditions -- even on mandatory injury reports. The decision to do so often is to protect the player, although teams have slanted medical conditions to make it seem less severe -- which Haynesworth is alleging.
No doubt, Haynesworth wants out of Washington and away from Shanahan, but his behavior is killing his trade value. Would the Redskins simply cut him? Doubtful. That would set a bad precedent and go against Shanahan's history -- unless Haynesworth would be willing to give some money back.
Shanahan had a similar issue with defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, Denver's big free-agent signing (seven years, $34.9 million) in 2003. Gardener missed most of training camp and five regular-season games after tearing ligaments in his hand during an off-field fight.
When he returned, he started two games and played in three others but his work ethic was criticized. Gardener was suspended twice, once for criticizing the coaches and the scheme (sound familiar). He drew another suspension when he went on a local radio station and ripped Shanahan, referring to him as "that little man," during a rant in which he said he was set up by coaches to lose his temper when his supposed poor work ethic was routinely pointed out during a film session.
The Broncos tried to recoup some of his signing bonus and a settlement was reached in order for him to be released. Gardener never played another down in the NFL because of a degenerative back condition.
Ironically, Gardener earned his big free-agent contract after having a monster season in 2002 -- with the Redskins.