TAMPA — If it weren't for the things that make Tampa Bay distinctive — the sparkling water and the glorious sunshine — Albert Haynesworth says he might have joined the Bucs two years ago.
But, the defensive tackle said Thursday, the area's lure and his passion for boating would have detracted from his focus on football, so the prize of the 2009 free-agent class signed with the Redskins instead.
"It was too pretty, too much water, too much sun," said Haynesworth, owner of an 80-foot pleasure craft and a 50-foot race boat. "I had just bought a nice, big boat, a fast boat, and I really thought if I came here, I'd mix my time in with football and boating.
"When I was in Tennessee (with the Titans), I had football season, and then in the offseason I'd do the boating and (play with) all my toys."
Haynesworth finally is here, plucked off waivers from the Patriots this week.
It will be some time before the Bucs can say whether their Haynesworth experiment succeeds. For now, the embattled former NFL defensive player of the year — who was suspended by the Redskins late last season for conduct issues and traded to the Patriots in July — is saying all the right things.
"I felt like I could still play," he said of his time in New England. "I just want to prove myself."
On his return to his preferred penetrating "3 technique" defensive tackle role, Haynesworth was giddy.
"It feels great," he said. "It's unbelievable just to get off the ball and wreak havoc. That's awesome.
"This is where I should have been, like, three years ago. I think all good things come to somebody who waits."
The Bucs desperately need depth at defensive tackle. Gerald McCoy is out for the season with a torn right biceps, and backup Frank Okam (calf) looks unlikely to play against Houston on Sunday.
Is Haynesworth the answer?
"I think I can be pretty effective," he said. "I'm an older guy (30), and I think they brought me here to play hard, but also to show some of the younger guys how to play, to be somewhat of a mentor to show them how to get off the ball and disrupt."
Haynesworth practiced for the first time Thursday morning after flying in from Boston late Wednesday.
He said coaches intend to play him against the Texans on Sunday, though his exact role remains undetermined.
He briefly reflected on his eight-week stint in New England that ended with his release Tuesday.
"That was a great place," he said. "Coach (Bill) Belichick is a great guy, and it's a good system. But I just wanted to play more. … I just wasn't getting a lot of reps, so they made the decision to let me go.
"Some of it might have been health issues. Some of it was that we had a lot of defensive linemen. We would switch different things depending on the team we played. Some teams we had to play, the scheme we were running that week didn't really fit me that well."
Bucs coach Raheem Morris, also the team's defensive coordinator, uses a consistent four-man line. Haynesworth's role will be to penetrate up the field, disrupt running plays and collapse the pocket on passing downs.
After evaluating him during one workout, Morris was reticent in his comments but seemed confident Haynesworth would fit in.
"He knows a couple different systems, (but) he's back in a system where he can come off the ball and cause disruption," Morris said. "That's who he is and what he's been, and that's what we're going to ask him to do."
Haynesworth's effort was said to be an issue at times in New England. He summarily dismissed the notion.
"I don't really understand that because, to me, any time you're on the football field, you have another guy trying to knock your head off," he said.
"You think you're not going to play? That's not me."
Morris said Haynesworth appeared in good physical shape and said the tackle seems capable of handling a full workload of 30 to 35 snaps.
It seems that would please his new teammates, too.
"You've got to pay attention to him," rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn said.
"He demands so much attention. Hopefully, teams start double-teaming him. Don't tell him I said that, though."
Said defensive tackle Roy Miller, who will share snaps with Haynesworth: "We saw different glimpses of him (on Thursday). Can't wait to see more."
Times staff writers Rick Stroud and Joe Smith contributed to this report.