It's hard to hold a conversation with Albert Haynesworth without thinking about labels. Troublemaker. The guy who stomped on Andre Gurode. Injury-prone. Maybe a bit of a slacker. The $100 million man. The next Reggie White or Bruce Smith.
Haynesworth has said he won't be labeled a "bust" and would like to finish his NFL career as one of the all-time greats.
Then there's a label the Washington Redskins think they will earn with Haynesworth dominating the middle of the line. Last year, their defense was good. This year, it is expected to be great.
"Albert," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said, "will have a dramatic impact."
He'll have to, if he wants to live up to his contract. The Redskins guaranteed Haynesworth an unprecedented $41 million in the seven-year, $100 million deal that brought the All-Pro defensive tackle to Washington after seven years with the Tennessee Titans.
He arrived with enormous talent and plenty of baggage. The talent debuted last Saturday, when he was an unblockable menace in his one quarter of play against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Haynesworth seemed to get double-teamed or held _ or both _ on every snap.
"He showed what he can do about getting into the backfield," Zorn said. "He didn't get any sacks, but he flushed the QB enough. Just to see the QB have to move away was music to my ears."
As a result, the Redskins should have more of what was missing last year: Sacks and turnovers. The defense ranked No. 4 in the league in yards allowed, but there weren't enough game-changing plays.
"They want me to do the same thing I did in Tennessee," Haynesworth said. "They want me to be dominant, make plays, be disruptive. That's my goal for this whole deal, and nothing else. Play my technique and get after the quarterback."
The baggage from Tennessee is what Haynesworth hopes to leave behind. He served a five-game suspension in 2006 and was sent to anger management classes after raking his foot over Dallas center Gurode's face. He's still dealing with the legal ramifications from an automobile crash that seriously injured another driver in December.
He also had a reputation for taking plays off. He missed an average of three or four games a year, usually due to injuries, and hasn't played 16 games in a season since he was a rookie. He missed two days of training camp this month to have fluid injected into his knee, a procedure that has become routine for him in recent years.
Realizing all the bad labels he was picking up, Haynesworth is working on what he's called "a new chapter" in his life. At Redskins camp, he has been focused, trying to stay above the fray. He gives dispassionate _ almost nonchalant _ answers to reporters' questions, as if he's done it all a million times before and wants to get it over with and move on.
"He's not the type that's going to say a whole lot," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "He's not a guy that's going to sign a whole lot of autographs; he's not your autograph event. He is a guy that works hard, though, and that's all you can ask for."
One thing Haynesworth won't do is back down from his pursuit to be placed in the same category as all-time greats Smith and White, whose names he invoked on his first day at Redskins Park.
NFL Hall of Famer? That's a good label to have.
"They're considered the greatest, and I want to be up there right along with them," Haynesworth said. "I might not have the same numbers they have, but I want to be able to dominate the game like they did. And for people to know that I dominated the game like they did."