Matt Leinart, Albert Haynesworth among players feeling heat of summer

Summer arrived Monday, and some prominent NFL players are in sticky situations.

Start with Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart, who has the difficult task of succeeding Kurt Warner. This has been a tumultuous offseason for the Cardinals, who have lost four big-name players— Warner, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle—through free agency, trade or retirement. No wonder the 49ers have become a trendy pick to win the NFC West.

While Warner was one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, Leinart remains an enigma heading into his fifth NFL season.

Matt Leinart has no excuses left if he doesn't succeed for the Cardinals this year.
Matt Leinart has no excuses left if he doesn’t succeed for the Cardinals this year.

"The questions I have about him are the same ones I had when he was drafted," said former NFL quarterback Steve Beuerlein, now an analyst for CBS. "Does he have the arm strength and the overall ability? There’s really no excuse you can make if he doesn’t produce this year. He’s gotten a little playing time, and he’s had time to learn and watch somebody who has been successful, in a positive situation where he hasn’t been under pressure to perform.

"The table is set, but the jury is out. I’m not convinced that he’s the guy, but I’m very intrigued to see what he does with the opportunity."

Leinart needs a strong training camp and preseason to build on what reportedly has been a solid offseason. The Cardinals are in transition but hope to keep winning. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet seem poised to fill the void created when Boldin was traded to Baltimore.

Expect the Cardinals to run more this season, using Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower to take pressure off Leinart.

However, this is the season Leinart must show he is ready to be "the guy," a quarterback the Cardinals can win with for the next four or five seasons. If 2010 is not a solid season for Leinart, it might be his last season in Arizona.

Albert Haynesworth, Redskins DL

Haynesworth has become their most unpopular player by skipping spring workouts, then asking to be traded after accepting a $21 million bonus in April. Teammates have ripped him. Ex-Redskins have ripped him. Yet after all the rhetoric, the important question remains: How will Haynesworth and the Redskins resolve their dispute?

"I’m more disappointed than most," former Redskins QB Joe Theismann said Monday night, "because I do the Redskins’ preseason games. I sat down with him face-to-face and said, ‘Now that you’ve got your $100 million, people are saying you’re going to slack off.’ He told me he wanted to be the best player on the field. That was a crock of baloney.

"In the best interest of the Washington Redskins, he should not be with them next year. I think somebody’s going to need a big body for 20 plays. They may be able to get something for him. But there’s really no incentive for him to play hard, because he’s already got the money in the bank."

It’s a major issue that threatens to cast a huge shadow over coach Mike Shanahan’s and quarterback Donovan McNabb’s first training camp with the Redskins. If the Redskins don’t trade Haynesworth before camp, his mere presence will be a distraction. Meanwhile, trading Haynesworth will not be easy, not with his $100 million contract and his baggage.

Hard to believe it has reached this point, just one season after he signed his mega contract. So between now and the start of training camp July 29, Shanahan and Haynesworth should meet face to face.

Chris Johnson was the NFL's top back in 2009 and would like to be paid as such.
Chris Johnson was the NFL’s top back in 2009 and would like to be paid as such.

Say what you want about Haynesworth, but he is a talented player who can help any defensive scheme if motivated. Haynesworth had to be stung by some of the criticism coming from teammates, coaches and Redskins legends.

"Albert did a great con job," Theismann said. "He sold a lot of people a bill of goods, that he cares about football. All he cares about is what he really wants to do. … He has no respect for authority. He has no respect for a coaching staff. He has no respect for Daniel Snyder. He has no respect for the Washington Redskins."

Maybe a truce still can be brokered? If not, this could be one ugly divorce.

Chris Johnson, Titans RB

He was the best running back in the NFL last season, but he also has become the best bargain with a contract due to pay him $550,000 this season.

Johnson told The Tennessean that he is willing to hold out, but he risks losing a year of credit toward free agency if he does not report to camp by Aug. 10.

The Titans have a playoff-caliber team, but Johnson is the centerpiece of the offense and clearly has outperformed his rookie contract.

Running backs can age quickly, so it is hard to blame Johnson for wanting a new contract. But the Titans have the leverage—Johnson is signed for another three seasons—and a potential lockout looming after the 2010 season. Stay tuned. This is another dispute that could get worse before it gets better.

Terrell Owens, Free-agent WR

No team has signed him, and no general manager seems in a rush to dial Owens’ phone.

"I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play this season," Beuerlein said. "But I won’t be surprised if he has to wait until late into training camp, or even into the season. I don’t think a lot of teams are willing to take a chance on him.

"There will have to be an injury. Or a coach looking at his team as the season gets close and admitting to himself that his team doesn’t have enough playmakers."

We likely have not seen the last of Owens in an NFL uniform, but his long history of clashes with teammates, coaches and management are costing him in the present.

Rex Ryan, Jets coach

With Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, David Harris and D’Brickashaw Ferguson all upset with their contracts, Ryan has the task of keeping a team with Super Bowl talent and aspirations focused and unified. That will not be easy if Revis does not get a new deal before training camp. He is their best player, and it will not sit well in the locker room if Revis does not get paid.

Sometimes, a coach’s first year in New York is his toughest. For Ryan, it could be his second year.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

Summer arrived Monday, and some prominent NFL players are in sticky situations.

Start with Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart, who has the difficult task of succeeding Kurt Warner. This has been a tumultuous offseason for the Cardinals, who have lost four big-name players— Warner, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle—through free agency, trade or retirement. No wonder the 49ers have become a trendy pick to win the NFC West.

While Warner was one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, Leinart remains an enigma heading into his fifth NFL season.

Matt Leinart has no excuses left if he doesn't succeed for the Cardinals this year.
Matt Leinart has no excuses left if he doesn’t succeed for the Cardinals this year.

"The questions I have about him are the same ones I had when he was drafted," said former NFL quarterback Steve Beuerlein, now an analyst for CBS. "Does he have the arm strength and the overall ability? There’s really no excuse you can make if he doesn’t produce this year. He’s gotten a little playing time, and he’s had time to learn and watch somebody who has been successful, in a positive situation where he hasn’t been under pressure to perform.

"The table is set, but the jury is out. I’m not convinced that he’s the guy, but I’m very intrigued to see what he does with the opportunity."

Leinart needs a strong training camp and preseason to build on what reportedly has been a solid offseason. The Cardinals are in transition but hope to keep winning. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet seem poised to fill the void created when Boldin was traded to Baltimore.

Expect the Cardinals to run more this season, using Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower to take pressure off Leinart.

However, this is the season Leinart must show he is ready to be "the guy," a quarterback the Cardinals can win with for the next four or five seasons. If 2010 is not a solid season for Leinart, it might be his last season in Arizona.

Albert Haynesworth, Redskins DL

Haynesworth has become their most unpopular player by skipping spring workouts, then asking to be traded after accepting a $21 million bonus in April. Teammates have ripped him. Ex-Redskins have ripped him. Yet after all the rhetoric, the important question remains: How will Haynesworth and the Redskins resolve their dispute?

"I’m more disappointed than most," former Redskins QB Joe Theismann said Monday night, "because I do the Redskins’ preseason games. I sat down with him face-to-face and said, ‘Now that you’ve got your $100 million, people are saying you’re going to slack off.’ He told me he wanted to be the best player on the field. That was a crock of baloney.

"In the best interest of the Washington Redskins, he should not be with them next year. I think somebody’s going to need a big body for 20 plays. They may be able to get something for him. But there’s really no incentive for him to play hard, because he’s already got the money in the bank."

It’s a major issue that threatens to cast a huge shadow over coach Mike Shanahan’s and quarterback Donovan McNabb’s first training camp with the Redskins. If the Redskins don’t trade Haynesworth before camp, his mere presence will be a distraction. Meanwhile, trading Haynesworth will not be easy, not with his $100 million contract and his baggage.

Hard to believe it has reached this point, just one season after he signed his mega contract. So between now and the start of training camp July 29, Shanahan and Haynesworth should meet face to face.

Chris Johnson was the NFL's top back in 2009 and would like to be paid as such.
Chris Johnson was the NFL’s top back in 2009 and would like to be paid as such.

Say what you want about Haynesworth, but he is a talented player who can help any defensive scheme if motivated. Haynesworth had to be stung by some of the criticism coming from teammates, coaches and Redskins legends.

"Albert did a great con job," Theismann said. "He sold a lot of people a bill of goods, that he cares about football. All he cares about is what he really wants to do. … He has no respect for authority. He has no respect for a coaching staff. He has no respect for Daniel Snyder. He has no respect for the Washington Redskins."

Maybe a truce still can be brokered? If not, this could be one ugly divorce.

Chris Johnson, Titans RB

He was the best running back in the NFL last season, but he also has become the best bargain with a contract due to pay him $550,000 this season.

Johnson told The Tennessean that he is willing to hold out, but he risks losing a year of credit toward free agency if he does not report to camp by Aug. 10.

The Titans have a playoff-caliber team, but Johnson is the centerpiece of the offense and clearly has outperformed his rookie contract.

Running backs can age quickly, so it is hard to blame Johnson for wanting a new contract. But the Titans have the leverage—Johnson is signed for another three seasons—and a potential lockout looming after the 2010 season. Stay tuned. This is another dispute that could get worse before it gets better.

Terrell Owens, Free-agent WR

No team has signed him, and no general manager seems in a rush to dial Owens’ phone.

"I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play this season," Beuerlein said. "But I won’t be surprised if he has to wait until late into training camp, or even into the season. I don’t think a lot of teams are willing to take a chance on him.

"There will have to be an injury. Or a coach looking at his team as the season gets close and admitting to himself that his team doesn’t have enough playmakers."

We likely have not seen the last of Owens in an NFL uniform, but his long history of clashes with teammates, coaches and management are costing him in the present.

Rex Ryan, Jets coach

With Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, David Harris and D’Brickashaw Ferguson all upset with their contracts, Ryan has the task of keeping a team with Super Bowl talent and aspirations focused and unified. That will not be easy if Revis does not get a new deal before training camp. He is their best player, and it will not sit well in the locker room if Revis does not get paid.

Sometimes, a coach’s first year in New York is his toughest. For Ryan, it could be his second year.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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