Pay him the money!
Tennessee Titan defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is in the last season of his contract and is eligible for the free agent market at season's end.
(T-G Photo by Jimmy Jones)
Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglette coach Lynn Burkey, who came to his first Titans game with a number of friends, was amazed at the size of the players up close.
We both noticed, almost at the same time, that Haynesworth was in street clothes and not dressed out. He was on the inactive list with a hamstring injury.
We both mentioned how his absence from the lineup was going to be a setback for the Titans. Little did we know how much an issue it would be.
Without Haynesworth in the lineup, the Titan defense didn't quite look the same.
Jacksonville rushed for 166 yards, led by running back Maurice Jones-Drew with 101 yards on 19 carries. Fred Taylor added 45 yards on 16 carries, including a 15-yard run which moved him over 10,000 yards rushing in his career.
On the year, Haynesworth is the Titans' second leading tackler with 56 stops to go with five sacks and 17 quarterback pressures.
Coaches and teammates admitted after the game not having Haynesworth on the field was a huge difference.
"Had we been fortunate enough to have Albert at full speed and 100 percent, yes, I think he would have made a difference," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said.
"It's a big difference," Titan defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "Albert is a dominant player. He's such a force -- he draws double teams in the run game and we missed him today."
Joining Haynesworth on the inactive list was defensive end Travis LaBoy.
When the news of the Titan inactives reached the Jaguar locker room, there was a sense of relief.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
Despite the troubles with the Tennessee offense, if Haynesworth is in the lineup I like the Titans' chances.
Haynesworth's value might have increased more by not playing.
With millions and millions of dollars left under the salary cap, first-year Titan general manager Mike Reinfeldt needs to go ahead and get a deal done with Haynesworth. If Sunday's game with Jacksonville is any indication, that will be money well spent.
Here's an interesting observation I noticed in the Titans' media guide. Haynesworth lists his favorite movie as "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."
Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.