Titans hold out hope that Haynesworth will be in camp
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008 8:59 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Titans officials and the agent for All Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth are talking, and coach Jeff Fisher says he’s hopeful that their franchise player will sign his one-year tender in time to be on the field for the start of training camp.
The Titans reported voluntarily Thursday but the first mandatory meeting isn’t until this morning.
The first practice of training camp is set for this afternoon.
The team and Haynesworth failed to reach agreement on a long-term contract before the deadline July 15.
Now his only option is signing the one-year tender paying him $7.25 million, but Haynesworth’s agent has said they hope the Titans will agree not to slap the tackle with the franchise tag again in 2009.
Fisher said general manager Mike Reinfeldt was talking with Haynesworth’s agent as the coach spoke to reporters at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
“We have every intention and hope that we’ll be able to get him in here tomorrow. Right now as it stands, he will be here eventually. We’re hoping sooner rather than later, but things, I think, are progressing as such we’ll be able to have him in, and he’ll be on the field as early as tomorrow,” Fisher said.
Haynesworth’s agent, Chad Speck, did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press.
The Titans had described the one-year tender as a deal making Haynesworth the NFL’s highest-paid defensive tackle. Speck disagreed, pointing to deals with guaranteed money for linemen like Tommy Kelly ($13.62 million from Oakland), Tommie Harris ($10.6 million from Chicago) and Kris Jenkins ($9.5 million from the Jets).
Haynesworth and first-round draft pick Chris Johnson are the only players unsigned.
Only a handful of first-round picks had signed as of Thursday, making negotiations difficult.
But Johnson’s agent, Joel Segal, said he was hopeful that his charge will be signed soon.
“We’ve had negotiations and are making efforts to expedite the process so Chris can be on time, and hopefully he will be,” Segal said.
Fisher agreed, saying the deal may not be reached until late. He is expecting Johnson on the field today.
“Now, the dotting of the I’s and crossing of the proverbial T’s may reach into practice tomorrow, but it’s not something that’s going to be a long, drawn-out holdout. We’re very confident where things are, and Vinny’s done a great job for us,” Fisher said of Vinny Marino, their salary cap specialist. “We’re very lucky to have him aboard.”
But Haynesworth is the player the Titans used the franchise tag on in February, the first time this team had used the designation on someone since 1997.
Haynesworth was a key reason the defense went from giving up more yards than any other in the NFL in 2006 to the fifth-stingiest unit in 2007, having a career year with six sacks and 23 total quarterback pressures.
Haynesworth sat out the offseason program.
He has said he has been busy working out on his own, reshaping his body and finding muscles he didn’t realize he had.
Fisher said he won’t be monitoring Haynesworth’s work once he does arrive.
“When he arrives, he’s going to hit it running. I expect him to practice and fall right back into the rotation. He’s been through it before. He says he’s in great shape. … If we need to back off a little, we will. We don’t have any intention of backing off when he shows up,” Fisher said.
The Titans will find training camp a little different this year, their 12th since relocating to Tennessee and Fisher’s 14th as head coach with the franchise, dating back to its Houston days.
Fisher said he and his coaches looked at the camp schedule and tweaked a variety of things: fewer morning practices, the first two-a-day is five days into camp and a couple sessions starting at noon — the time the season kicks off against Jacksonville on Sept. 7.
With the addition of lights for one of the three fields at the team’s headquarters, Fisher has scheduled one night practice with the possibility for a couple more depending on the heat.
Fisher said he could make the changes in the camp schedule because his team is mature enough and good enough to handle them.