Albert Haynesworth thrilled to be a Pat

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Chad Ochocinco dubbed it heaven. Albert Haynesworth wouldn't disagree.

Fresh off his first action in a Patriots uniform, Haynesworth gushed about his short time in New England, calling it a "career-saving place" and suggesting he'd have given up all the money he earned with the Washington Redskins if he could have come to the Patriots sooner.

"(Fellow former Redskins defensive lineman Andre Carter and I) were talking, just about how different it is, how we really like this place," said Haynesworth. "For me, it's a career-saving place for me to come. I had no idea it would be like this. It's unbelievable. I wish I kinda took two years ago and came here."

When it was noted that he earned a handsome pay day for his time -- as turbulent as it was -- with the Redskins, Haynesworth added, "You know what, when all is said and done, hell, I'd give that money back and I'd come here."

Haynesworth, obtained for a fifth-round pick in a July swap with Washington, played 16 first-half snaps and registered two tackles (both of which drew loud cheers from the crowd when his name was announced over the stadium PA).

On the game's first play, Haynesworth manhandled one of the Giants' second-string guards, helping blow up a play that resulted in the Giants fumbling the ball away (and setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis just 20 seconds in). Haynesworth's only disappointment? Not getting to the quarterback.

"Hell, I wanted to get the sack," said Haynesworth. "(Giants quarterback) David Carr always gives me sacks, his whole life. That's what I was working at, trying to get a sack."

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound behemoth settled for getting a few game reps in before the regular season.

"It was great," said Haynesworth. "I need to knock off a lot of rust. I've kind of been just rusting, sitting in D.C. So, I need to get back, get back to that playing form when I was with the Titans."

After operating out of the 4-3 alignment he's professed his preference for, Haynesworth raved not only about the depth on New England's defensive line -- saying it trumped even that which surrounded him during his best pro seasons in Tennessee -- but also gushed about coach Bill Belichick and his defensive schemes.

"I think he's a brilliant coach," said Haynesworth. "I always thought, from the time I got into the NFL and definitely playing against him, he was an awesome coach (and I) always wanted to play for him. Ten years later, here I am."

During the fourth quarter, Haynesworth could be seen on the sideline huddled with linemen Carter, Gerard Warren, Shaun Ellis -- who also made his Patriots debut, registering a second-half sack -- and Vince Wilfork. Even Haynesworth marvels at the potential of New England's defensive front.

"I can't believe it," said Haynesworth. "We have a lot of experience, a lot of great guys. I call Sean 'Big Katt,' because he was in college (at the University of Tennessee) with me. He was the big brother that took care of me in college, so it's just awesome to play with him again. Vince, I met him in the Pro Bowl and had a great time. And Andre, of course, we spent two years together in D.C. Also, being around the young guys has been awesome. I feel right at home here. I wish I was here earlier."

Asked about Haynesworth, Ellis said: "I thought he was good. I couldn't really watch, I had to concentrate on what I was doing. We'll look at the tape, we'll critique ourselves, and see how we can get together."

With Haynesworth and Ellis missing extended time during training camp, getting on the same page is key for the Patriots moving forward. But as Haynesworth said, "Hell, we ain't got no choice, we got Monday night coming up (versus the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 12). We gotta be on the same page."

When a reporter tried to get Haynesworth to say why he hadn't been on the field for much of camp, the player simply smiled and noted, "I know I haven't been here that long, but you gotta talk to Coach," eliciting laughter from the media horde.

Thanks in part to the support shown by his owner, coach and teammates, Haynesworth seems to have bought into the Patriot Way.

"Everybody is here for you," Haynesworth said when a reporter noted he seemed relaxed while addressing the media for only the second time since arriving. "I really enjoy that. I know my head coach is for me. I know my owner is for me. I know my players are for me. I feel relaxed, I'm having fun again. I'm having fun playing football again."

While meeting with the media before the team's annual charity Kickoff Gala on Tuesday night, team owner Robert Kraft offered heavy praise for Haynesworth.

"Albert Haynesworth has been a gentleman," said Kraft. "I don't know if you've heard him speak, he's not that image that the (media) presents. I mean I hope he is during the games, but from everything I've seen, he's a very likable fellow."

Haynesworth went as far as to suggest this would be the last stop on his football journey.

"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."

Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.