The team on Tuesday released Haynesworth just a few days after the underperforming defensive lineman clearly struggled in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the New York Giants. After getting overpowered by Giants guard David Diehl on a 10-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs with 9:10 remaining in the quarter, Haynesworth did not see the field the rest of the game.
Coach Bill Belichick said Haynesworth's absence after the play was not due to injury, indicating it was "rotation related."
"We had a lot of defensive linemen active, so they played in different rotations," said Belichick. "Vince (Wilfork) is a guy, obviously, that we don't want off the field. But the rest of those guys, they can't all play. One guy plays for a while, then somebody else plays, and they rotate. ... We had Kyle (Love), Vince, Albert, Gerard (Warren), and Ron (Brace) -- it's kinda five guys for two spots there."
Haynesworth also reportedly had words with Patriots assistant coach Pepper Johnson on the sideline after the Jacobs touchdown. Belichick would not comment on the report.
"Whatever we talk about as a team, during the game or in meetings, all that, is between the players and coaches," said Belichick.
But on Tuesday, Belichick met with Haynesworth, thanked him for his hard work in returning from a back injury, then told him that it just wasn't working out and that he wasn't a fit for the Patriots' defensive scheme, a source said.
The Patriots made a couple of corresponding moves on Tuesday. They signed wide receiver Tiquan Underwood for a second stint with the team. Tight end Dan Gronkowski, the brother of tight end Rob Gronkowski, was cut again. He was signed Sept. 7 and released Sept. 23, only to be signed again on Oct. 11. Offensive lineman Thomas Welch was released from the practice squad.
Hampered by back injuries much of the season, Haynesworth played in six games. He had three tackles and no sacks.
While there were flashes of excellence, hopes that he would team with veteran Wilfork to form a dominant 1-2 punch as defensive tackles in the 4-3 scheme never materialized. He was mostly a backup or situational player, working behind Wilfork and second-year player Love. The Patriots have depth with Warren and third-year player Ron Brace to fill that role.
Per ESPNBoston.com charting, Haynesworth was on the field for 133 of 561 snaps (including penalties) this season.
Last Wednesday, the 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth told reporters he was focused on making improvements.
"I want to do everything better. I'd like to rush the passer and get after the quarterback more. Instead of just getting the pressures, I want to get the sacks, of course," he said. "Just be more predominant. I've done some things, but I still want to do more."
After his first preseason game in a Patriots uniform in September, Haynesworth called New England a "career-saving place" and made a foreshadowing suggestion that this would be the last stop on his foootball journey, one way or another.
"If, God forbid, I get cut from this team, I know I can go out there and play for another team, but I feel like this is going to be my last place I'm going to play," he said. "If it doesn't work out here, I'm not going to play anywhere else."
Haynesworth was traded to the Patriots from the Redskins over the summer for a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, coming to New England with plenty of baggage. While in Washington, Haynesworth was unhappy with how he was being utilized and developed a reputation for not putting in 100 percent effort.
Haynesworth was scheduled to earn $5.4 million this season but dropped his base salary to $1.5 million (not including incentives). There were no bonuses as part of the deal, which made it a low-risk scenario for the Patriots.
Haynesworth's contract extended through the 2012 season, when he was due a base salary of $6.7 million.
Haynesworth's release was first reported by the Boston Herald.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.