NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tampa Bay's Albert Haynesworth says he is returning to Tennessee with no ill will toward the Titans.
He's now with his third team since leaving the franchise that drafted him and says he's learned the hard way a big payday may not be worth the hassle.
"I'm going into free agency, I'm almost thinking that all the other teams are kind of alike, and they just want to bring somebody in of a high caliber that they're going to kind of play to their strengths,'' Haynesworth said Wednesday in a conference call. "That doesn't necessarily mean it. A lot of times, it's a business and not every team, but some teams are just going to bring you in to sell tickets.
"So guys got to definitely be careful for that and before you go and think it's going to be greener grass on the other side, really look back where you played all your ball and see if you maybe can work something out with them.''
Haynesworth turned down a reported four-year deal for $32 million with Tennessee in July 2008 before playing his seventh and final season with the Titans. He then signed a $100 million deal with Washington with $41 million guaranteed. The Redskins traded him to New England in July after two seasons highlighted by poor production and a running battle with Washington coach Mike Shanahan last year.
The Patriots waived him earlier this month, and the Bucs, who had offered Haynesworth $42 million guaranteed when he was a free agent, claimed him. Now the Bucs (4-6) visit Tennessee (5-5) on Sunday.
This will be his second game back in Tennessee since he left, though he had only one tackle in very limited play in a Redskins' overtime win last season.
Haynesworth said he read where Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said the difference between their offer and Washington's was about 20 percent. The tackle said if that were true, he'd still be wearing Tennessee blue.
Titans fullback Ahmard Hall watched Haynesworth at his best in 2007 and 2008 when the defensive tackle went to two Pro Bowls motivated to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. He thinks Haynesworth has had this game circled on his calendar, which could be bad for the Titans because the tackle plays so well when he has a reason.
Haynesworth's best season as a pro was in 2008 when he had 51 combined tackles and 8.5 sacks. He has barely topped that with the past three seasons combined with 37 tackles in 2009 with 4 sacks for Washington followed by 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2010. This season, he has nine tackles with no sacks.
"It's a mentality, it's motivation,'' Hall said of Haynesworth's play. "He hadn't lost the talent. He hadn't lost the talent. He's the same guy that he was here. A fact of him probably not being motivated to do it anymore. This game is mental. I know that's a cliche. Everybody hears it. It's 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. But it is. If you're not motivated to do it, you're not going to get it done.''
Haynesworth was motivated Nov. 13 when the Bucs lost to the Houston Texans. He had five tackles and fell on Matt Schaub's foot at the goal line, possibly leading to the injury that ended the quarterback's season Wednesday when Houston placed him on injured reserve. Haynesworth said he does love to hit Schaub and graded himself as playing all right.
"He actually screamed like normal,'' Haynesworth said of Schaub during that play.
Haynesworth said he feels much more comfortable in the 4-3 that the Bucs run, a defense that allows him to disrupt and be aggressive rather than sit back and fill space. He said he wishes he had taken Tampa Bay's offer instead of Washington's in 2009. He also hopes he doesn't hear too many boos Sunday when two of his children should be in the stands watching.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said Haynesworth has fit in quickly.
"He has played decent,'' Morris said. "He went out there the first week and had eight tackles and did a nice job for us and created some disruption, played 47 snaps or whatever the case may be. Then the following week he went out there and made some disruption and played pretty tough against the world champs, and hopefully he can get out there and play well and put a couple more games together where he is playing well like he is right now.''
Hall knows Haynesworth well enough that he hopes not to run into the 6-foot-6, 350-pound tackle in the hole.
"If I do, I'll probably cut him or something like that,'' Hall said.