Longtime position coach Pepper Johnson is the latest from within the Patriots organization who has had a positive first impression of Albert Haynesworth, whose reputation in the NFL preceded him in New England.
Peppers met with reporters Sunday, and naturally was asked about the task of taking on Haynesworth. When it comes to the defensive tackle and his extensive track record of being a problem child, the Patriots defensive line coach says reality doesn't match perception.
"Very unlike what you read about," Johnson said of Haynesworth, per The Boston Herald. "I was thinking that, what am I really going to have to deal with? I'm coaching every player that comes up in here. It really doesn't matter to me. But, Albert, God he's a great guy.
"It's kind of hard to see some of the things that you hear negative about him . . . . some of the stuff, you need to know both sides of the story. I think Albert is a great person. He's been trying to work his way out on the field. He's been tremendous in the classroom to date. I expect a lot from him."
The Patriots have taken on several players with checkered pasts in recent seasons, and like those before him, Peppers says Haynesworth entered the door with a clean slate.
"I'm not much with reading the newspapers, so I don't know much about him. You hear rumors of course. Before he came in through the door, that's when a lot of people where telling me he was some guy that was hard to deal with," Johnson said. "But I'm born and raised in Detroit. I don't know if there's too many people that would be hard for me to deal with. I'm not a person that sits up and judge. The Albert Haynesworth that came through the door shook my hand and started talking with me. That's the person I'm dealing with. His past, is his past to me."
Haynesworth, a two-time All-Pro, signed a seven-year, $100 million contract as a free agent in 2009 but proved to be a constant distraction on and off the field in two seasons with the Redskins. The Patriots acquired him in July for a 2013 fifth-round draft pick.