TAMPA — He has been called everything from lazy to uncoachable, and everything in between, but don't expect to hear similar sentiments when asking the Bucs for their impressions of Albert Haynesworth.
Since joining the Bucs after being claimed off waivers three games ago, the defensive tackle seems to have done nothing to perpetuate his reputation.
Elsewhere, Haynesworth has been said to lack consistent effort. What do the Bucs say?
"He's a hard worker," defensive line coach Keith Millard said. "He's been, actually, real easy to coach. I mean, he's been putting in extra time and working hard. He's been great."
In other places, Haynesworth's attitude has been questioned. Here?
"I really can't complain about anything or make up a story for anybody," coach Raheem Morris said. "The guy has just come in here and done what he's been asked to do."
In previous stops, some thought Haynesworth wasn't a good teammate. In Tampa Bay?
"He's just a guy who goes about his business," defensive end Tim Crowder said. "He doesn't go out seeking attention like how the media tries to make it seem.
"He's great in helping out the young defensive tackles to learn to just not to think so much and just go out and play."
He has been on the roster a little less than a month, but the Bucs' desperate acquisition of Haynesworth — coming on the heels of Gerald McCoy's season-ending injury — has been largely successful thus far.
He does not appear to have created a stir for any of the reasons he did with the Redskins and Patriots, his two previous teams who discarded him for a variety of reasons.
His presence hasn't helped produce a win, as the Bucs are 0-3 in his short stint here. But Haynesworth hasn't been a dud, either.
He has started each game, totaling seven tackles in his debut Nov. 13 against the Texans. On Sunday against the Titans — the team that drafted him 15th overall in 2002 out of Tennessee and where he was a two-time All-Pro — he had two tackles for losses among his four stops.
But it has been a mixed bag, something Haynesworth readily admits.
"I'm playing okay," he said this week. "I still have some things … to work on to get better to help my team. When I go out to practice, that's what I'm working on."
Perhaps that should be expected given Haynesworth's late addition to the roster.
He has been learning on the fly and still has a tendency to get out of the gap for which he is responsible. Then again, no one promised perfection.
"He's made some plays … and he's missed some plays," Morris said. "Just like any other player."
Said Millard: "We just have to get him caught up in our system and some of the things we do with technique. Then we'll just continue to put him in places where we can get the best out of him. It hasn't always been great because it's only been a couple weeks. For new guys, it's like the first day of training camp. So, you just have to be patient and keep things in perspective and not get too frustrated with situations."
It's clear the Bucs would have an even bigger void in the middle of their defense without Haynesworth. He has played more snaps than anyone envisioned, doing so with impact.
"Obviously, we had a big hole," Morris said. "I was just looking for a couple snaps. I was looking for 20 or 30. He's given us a little more. Ideally, you want him to be 20 to 30 … because that's when those guys play their best, those big giant guys. But I've been very pleased with what he's been able to give us."
To some extent Haynesworth, in his 10th season, sounds rejuvenated by his new surroundings.
"I like my teammates," he said. "I think they're really good. They're young and fresh, and they go out and play ball. I'm excited to be around them. It makes me feel young."
Haynesworth, 30, has another year on his current contract but wouldn't speculate on his chances for remaining in Tampa Bay (he suggested he'd like to). There are more immediate objectives, like the one that prompted the Bucs to bring him here in the first place: winning games.
"If we can get some better play and more consistent play out of everybody — not just Albert, but him especially — we can have some success down the stretch," Morris said.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]
Bucs vs. Panthers
1 p.m. Sunday, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
Radio: 620-AM, 103.5-FM.
Line: Bucs by 3; O/U 47