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For Haynesworth, anger has been toughest foe

Albert Haynesworth had a reputation for angry outbursts long before he crossed the line of good judgment and common decency in Nashville, Tenn.

In 2003, as a second-year defensive tackle with the Tennessee Titans, he kicked teammate Justin Hartwig in the chest at the conclusion of a practice play.

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As a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, he once fought with a teammate in practice, left the field and, according to the Associated Press, returned with a metal pole looking for the player.

But no one could have predicted that Haynesworth, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound behemoth, would stomp a helmet-less opponent in the face with his cleats Sunday, opening a head wound that required 30 stitches and left onlookers aghast.

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Or could they?

From Charlotte, N.C., where Hartwig is a center with the Carolina Panthers, Haynesworth's former teammate said he wasn't surprised. "He just loses his mind sometimes," Hartwig told reporters this week.

In Baltimore, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden conceded that he was not exactly shocked, either. "I'll put it like this," he said yesterday. "If you told me that somebody in the NFL would do that, he would be on my short list."

Then there was Dr. Mitch Abrams, a sports psychologist who specializes in violence prevention and works with inmates on mental health at six New Jersey prisons.

"It's a mistake to believe that athletes can turn it on or turn it off when nobody is teaching them that," Abrams said. "It's not surprising it was a defensive lineman who did this. Anger at high levels interferes with the ability to make good decisions."

Haynesworth's actions were so egregious that new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed out the league's biggest suspension for on-field misconduct - five games - which is more than twice the previous high. It is expected to cost him more than $190,000 in loss of salary.

It was so far over the line of accepted behavior that Haynesworth, 25, will not appeal his penalty, despite the fact that the NFL Players Association appeals almost every discipline meted out.

Haynesworth received good news yesterday for the first time since he kicked Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode twice in the head, once after Gurode's helmet was knocked off. Gurode's agent announced that the player will not file criminal charges.

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Filing charges over violence in sports is not unprecedented. Two NHL players, Todd Bertuzzi and Marty McSorley, both faced lawsuits after they willfully injured opponents in separate on-ice acts.

While Haynesworth's future with the Titans after the suspension remains in doubt - his coach was extremely critical of him yesterday - he is already taking steps to modify his behavior.

At a news conference at a Nashville hotel yesterday, a contrite Haynesworth said he will begin counseling in behavioral management this week and plans to spend Sundays during his suspension at a local center for children. He also apologized again to Gurode.

"I still don't know why I did something like that," he said during the conference.

"It was just a moment, a blur, a big, big mistake. It's something I wish I could take back. I'd give anything to take it back. I don't know how to explain how sorry I am."

In an interview with Fox Sports Radio, Titans coach Jeff Fisher described Haynesworth's conduct as "brutal" and openly questioned whether the former first-round draft pick will play again for the team.

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"He's not in the [team's] building, he won't be in the building, he may never be in the building ever again," Fisher said.

"Is he going to go out and gain his weight back or come back not in shape? I don't know. At this point, I don't care. The conduct on the field was so outside the lines that right now I've moved on. He's not part of this team."

In a violent sport where controlled rage is the standard, Haynesworth's actions were seen in the extreme by current and former players.

Said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who played with Haynesworth in Nashville: "I think kicking a guy with his helmet off goes past football. It's more like street life."

Former Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who was a sideline reporter for the Fox TV broadcast Sunday, called it a "cowardly move."

"Splitting a guy's head open with a kick to the face is as bad as I've seen," Siragusa said this week.

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Ravens running back Jamal Lewis knew Haynesworth while both were at the University of Tennessee.

"He was an all-right person, a good person," Lewis said. "But on the field, he was a dog, a bully. He always wanted to be the man.

"I never would have thought he'd do this. I know he didn't mean to actually cut this guy. He probably meant to hurt him a little bit, maybe put a knot on his head, but not scar him."

Aubrayo Franklin, a reserve defensive tackle with the Ravens, played with Haynesworth in Knoxville, but refused to speculate about what might have pushed the Titans tackle into dangerous territory Sunday.

"I don't think nothing could push me that far," Franklin said. "I never saw him go off at Tennessee."

Ogden said Haynesworth displayed a lack of respect for both his opponent and the game.

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"The guy is a very talented player, but he seems immature at times," Ogden said. "He's got to learn you've got to grow up. I've wanted to slap people on the field before ... but you've got to respect people.

"I would never contemplate doing anything to someone without a helmet. No matter how you feel about somebody, you just don't do that."

From his vantage point dealing with prison inmates, Abrams described the rationalization that athletes are more dangerous than others in society as a myth.

"There's a very fine line between ultra-competitiveness and wanting to destroy the other person," he said. "I believe the people who are most successful are the ones able to walk that line without spilling over it.

"This is a work in progress. This is a problem in society, and we should expect athletes to do it also. We all need much better controls of our emotions. It's not a sports-specific thing."

Ogden said he hopes the five-game suspension sends a message to all players. He deemed the penalty fair.

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"Some things on the football field can't be tolerated," he said.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

History of violence

Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth's kick to the face of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode on Sunday was the latest in a long, ugly line of violence in sports. Here are some of the worst incidents:

Zinedine Zidane -- In last summer's World Cup final, the French star head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Materazzi said later that he had insulted Zidane's sister. Zidane was red-carded in the final game of his illustrious career.

Wayne Rooney -- England lost its playmaker in a World Cup quarterfinals loss when Rooney stomped on the groin of Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho. Rooney was ejected.

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Todd Bertuzzi -- On March 8, 2004, the Vancouver Canucks' forward grabbed Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche from behind, punched him on the side of the head and the two players tumbled to the ice. Moore landed on his face, fracturing three vertebrae in his neck and suffering a concussion. Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the season; Moore filed assault and battery charges.

Marty McSorley -- In the waning seconds of a Feb. 21, 2000, game, the Boston Bruins' McSorley nailed the Vancouver Canucks' Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. Brashear's head struck the ice and he suffered a concussion. McSorley was suspended from the NHL for a year and never played again. He was found guilty of assault with a weapon, but never served jail time.

Roger Clemens -- A running dispute between New York Yankees pitcher and New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza turned ugly in the 2000 World Series. When Piazza broke his bat swinging at a pitch, Clemens fielded the shattered end of the bat and threw it at Piazza. He said he mistook the bat for a ball.

Juan Marichal -- The San Francisco Giants' pitcher struck Los Angeles Dodgers catcher John Roseboro twice on the head with a bat while at the plate in a game on Aug. 22, 1965. Roseboro had flipped several throws back to his pitcher close to Marichal's head, then yanked off his mask. Marichal promptly bloodied Roseboro's head.

Donovin Darius -- In a Monday night game in 2004, the Jacksonville Jaguars' safety sent Green Bay Packers receiver Robert Ferguson to the hospital with a clothesline hit to Ferguson's neck. Ferguson was temporarily paralyzed below the waist. Darius was fined $75,000 by the NFL but was spared a suspension because he had no previous history of a violent, on-field violation.

Charles Martin -- The Packers' defensive tackle body-slammed Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon after an interception in a 1986 game. McMahon suffered a separated shoulder. Martin was ejected and then suspended for two games, which was the NFL's biggest suspension for an on-field incident until Haynesworth.

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Kermit Washington --While the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers brawled on the court on Dec. 9, 1977, Washington hit an unsuspecting Rudy Tomjanovich with a vicious punch. Tomjanovich was sidelined for five months with a broken jaw and head injuries. Washington was suspended for 26 games.

Mike Tyson -- In a heavyweight fight on June 28, 1997, Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear and said it was in retaliation for a head butt.

[ Ken Murray]


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