NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Albert Haynesworth's temper has landed
him in trouble with teammates and coaches before. By stomping
another player's head, the Tennessee Titans defensive tackle not
only disgusted himself, he also drew a five-game suspension -- the
longest for on-field behavior in NFL history.
And that may just be the beginning of the grief for Haynesworth,
who fell to the Titans in the middle of the first round of the 2002
draft because of maturity questions.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Haynesworth stomped on Dallas Cowboys
center Andre Gurode's head Sunday, knocking off his helmet, then
kicked and stomped his face. Gurode needed 30 stitches to repair
the cuts left by the tackle's cleats, and plans to talk with his
family about whether or not to press charges, his agent told
Nashville police Monday.
The league suspended Haynesworth for five games -- more than
twice the length of the previous longest suspension -- for flagrant
unnecessary roughness. He won't be paid while he serves the
suspension, effective immediately.
"There is absolutely no place in the game, or anywhere else,
for the inexcusable action that occurred in yesterday's
Titans-Cowboys game," new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Haynesworth's previous problems had been hidden from attention
because they took place in practice. As a sophomore at Tennessee,
he fought with a teammate and left practice, returning with a long
pole looking for tackle Will Ofenheusle before coach Phillip Fulmer
stopped him. He was suspended for a half of a game.
During 2003 Titans training camp, Haynesworth kicked center
Justin Hartwig, now with Carolina. Charges for a road rage incident
earlier this year were dismissed.
But the stomping, showed repeatedly in television replays, has
brought nearly unanimous condemnation, the unprecedented suspension
and possibly criminal charges and a civil lawsuit.
Nashville police and the district attorney contacted the Cowboys' general counsel Monday, offering their assistance to Gurode in prosecuting Haynesworth. The Cowboys declined to comment on the suspension.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher indicated that Haynesworth would not appeal the decision; however, ESPN's Chris Mortensen spoke with NFL Players Association president Gene Upshaw who said he would challenge the penalty because of its unprecedented length.
Before the suspension was announced, Gurode wasn't in the Dallas
locker room. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said the center lifted
weights and could practice Wednesday. Before the suspension came
down, linebacker Greg Ellis, the players' union representative,
said he had talked with Gurode and thinks it is worth pressing
charges if things don't get properly resolved with the league.
Haynesworth was penalized and ejected from the game early in the
third quarter after stomping on Gurode's head, causing his helmet
to pop off, then kicking him again following a 5-yard touchdown run
by Julius Jones of the Cowboys.
"What I did out there was disgusting," Haynesworth said
Sunday. "It doesn't matter what the league does to me. The way I
feel right now, you just can't describe it."
Fisher said Haynesworth learned of the
suspension a few minutes before the league's announcement and that
the tackle was remorseful and embarrassed. But he called
Haynesworth's actions unacceptable.
"I felt there needed to be some serious action taken from a
discipline standpoint, and I believe that what the league has done
right now is adequate," Fisher said.
"Five games and five paychecks is substantial."
Jones' touchdown put Dallas up 20-6 in what wound up as a 45-14
victory. Gurode said after the game they hadn't been talking or
having any exchanges that led to Haynesworth's actions.
Parcells said Fisher apologized to him and the team after the
game. He also thought Haynesworth was contrite after the game,
which he was glad to hear.
"Other than that," Parcells said, "it was unfortunate."
Dallas nose tackle Jason Ferguson agreed a suspension was needed
and that nothing should push a player that far.
"With the head uncovered, you don't go for that. You're not
trying to kill anybody out there," Ferguson said.
The Titans can replace the five-year veteran on the roster, but
he has been a starter since late in his rookie season. Fisher did
not know if rules used for players suspended for substance abuse
will apply in this situation.
While the Titans had other evidence that something like this was
coming, Fisher said Haynesworth had been making progress in recent
"I am shocked and appalled for this to take place regardless
… whether there have been behavioral issues in the past or not.
To me, there's no place for this type of condition on the field,"
Before Monday, the longest suspension for on-field behavior was
two games for Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin for
throwing Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon to the ground during a
game on Nov. 23, 1986.
It's the first suspension since 2002 Rodney Harrison, then with
San Diego, was suspended one game for hitting Oakland's Jerry Rice
with his helmet. Earlier that season, Denver's Kenoy Kennedy was
suspended for a game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Chris Chambers
If charges are brought against Haynesworth, it wouldn't be the
first time police got involved following an on-field incident.
In the NHL, Todd Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to causing body harm in
Vancouver and missed 20 NHL games for a blindside punch that left
Colorado forward Steve Moore with broken bones in his neck. And
Marty McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon also by
Vancouver authorities for slashing Vancouver's Donald Brashear in
the head with his stick in February 2000.
Haynesworth will be eligible to return Nov. 19 for the Titans'
game at Philadelphia.