Let's play nice: Rams' Brown changes his tune about Haynesworth

ASHBURN, Va. -- Now that the game against the Washington Redskins is close at hand, St. Louis Rams center Jason Brown is saying nice things about Albert Haynesworth.

It's what Brown had to say a few weeks ago that better reflects some of the current debate about the Redskins' $100 million defensive tackle.

Back in the more casual setting of training camp in early August, Brown did a radio interview in which he painted Haynesworth as a big guy who gives out of gas in a hurry.

"I'm so glad we're playing Washington early in the year because it's going to be hot out there," Brown told St. Louis' 101ESPN. "And I'm not sure if you have watched film before, but when he gets fatigued, he taps out. Either he just falls down to the ground and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, is he hurt? Is something wrong with him?'

"No, he's just giving the guy on the sidelines enough time to mosey on out there so he can get up, go to the sidelines, catch a breather, get something to drink and then he comes right back out. And then people are like, 'Oh, I thought he was hurt.' No, he got tired."

For the record, Brown didn't sing that same song this week. No sense in spouting bulletin-board material ahead of Sunday's visit to Washington.

"Hands down, he's one of the best defensive tackles in the National Football League," Brown said of Haynesworth on Wednesday. "He's not the largest, but he plays as if he's the largest. Also, he plays with great leverage, great feet, great hands, as though he's a 300-pounder. But yet he's about 350 pounds."

Haynesworth played about three-quarters of the 64 defensive snaps in his Redskins debut Sunday, a 23-17 loss to the New York Giants. Depending on whose records you believe, he made anywhere from four tackles (the NFL's unofficial tally) to seven tackles (the Redskins' unofficial count). He made a solid stop of Brandon Jacobs on a fourth-and-1 inside the 5 yard line -- though Haynesworth paid the price by having the wind knocked out of him on the play.

"He did a good job," Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache said of Haynesworth. "Made some plays in the run game. Got some pressure at times in the passing game. They paid a great deal of attention to him. They turned the protection to him. He was definitely a factor in how the game transpired."

Of course, the Giants also got to run one out of every four plays without having to block the All-Pro, and it wasn't uncommon to see Haynesworth heading to the sideline to catch his breath. The position is so demanding that defensive linemen often are rotated to keep them fresh, but should the Redskins be expecting more from their investment?

It's worth noting that Haynesworth generally played about 60 percent of the snaps with the Tennessee Titans, but he made up for it with 8.5 sacks last season. Redskins coaches say they were fine with Haynesworth's amount of playing time against the Giants -- considering the extra energy that's spent anticipating the opening game of the season.

"That's about what we anticipated, what we thought it would be in the first ballgame," Blache said. "Because the first ballgame the speed picks up so much more than it's ever been in the preseason. The intensity level's up so much further."

The Giants dominated the game early with long drives and converted more than half of their third downs. Eli Manning was sacked only once and hurried just twice, neither time by Haynesworth. Interestingly, middle linebacker London Fletcher finished with 18 tackles -- No. 1 in the league on opening weekend.

Is there are correlation? Did Haynesworth's presence free up Fletcher that much? No, according to Blache.

"That's London doing London's job, and Albert doing Albert's job," Blache said. "I don't think that Albert made London have more tackles. I don't buy that. Albert's a good player, but let's not make him King Kong. He did his job. Good player. Very, very good player, but not Superman."

How does Haynesworth himself feel about his initial foray with the Redskins? Hard to tell.

Immediately after the game, Haynesworth said he and his teammates "haven't jelled yet as a defense." Of his rotation in and out of the game, he said: "What they want me to do is go as hard as I can. If I get tired, come out and catch my breath and go back out."

Since then, Haynesworth has clammed up, declining to address reporters Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Redskins' locker room. Asked Thursday when he plans to speak again, he replied: "When I choose to."

As far as the Redskins are concerned, Haynesworth can take interviews off, just as long as he doesn't take too many plays off.

"When he is in there, he goes very, very hard," coach Jim Zorn said. "I think everybody can see that he can really push the pocket, he can be very disruptive, and I think it is good to give a guy like that a breather for a short period of time so that when he goes back in, he can actually be as explosive as he was when he was in before."

Notes: After a week-and-a-half of nearly 100 percent participation in practice, the Redskins had a couple of knee flare-ups Thursday. LT Chris Samuels and DT Anthony Montgomery were both limited. Samuels had offseason surgery and will have to regularly rest his knee during the season. Montgomery has a bout of tendinitis. ... The Redskins have the oldest roster in the NFL, with an average age of 27.60 and average NFL experience of 5.55 years.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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