Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he is hopeful that franchised defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be on the practice field when training camp opens at 3:30 p.m. today.
Haynesworth, given a $7.25 million franchise tag in February, has still not signed the tender and missed all of the team’s offseason work. Fisher held out hope that an agreement could be reached in time for Haynesworth not to miss any camp time.
“We have every intention and hope that we’ll be able to get him in here tomorrow. Right now, as it stands, he will be here eventually,” Fisher said. “We’re hoping sooner rather than later. But I think we’re progressing and I think we will be able to have him on the practice field, perhaps as early as tomorrow.”
His agent Chad Speck and Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt have continued to talk, but Haynesworth’s camp wants certain concessions and incentives from the Titans that could make Haynesworth an unrestricted free agent in 2009, in exchange for his signature on the tender that would allow him to participate in training camp.
“In my mind, that does not imply that we’re going to cut him loose next year. To me, that would be the first step toward getting a long-term deal,” Fisher said.
Speck indicated that talks were still ongoing, but nothing had yet been resolved on Thursday.
“The Titans and I have been in contact with each other but nothing has been agreed upon,” Speck said.
Once Haynesworth arrives, Fisher said he expects him to fall back into a full workload even though he missed the entire offseason program.
“When he arrives, he’s going to hit it running,” Fisher said. “I expect him to practice, to fall right back into the rotation. He’s been through it before. He said he’s in great shape and been working out. If we need to back off him a little bit, we will, but we have no intention of backing him off when he shows up.”
One potential indication that a Haynesworth holdout might not last long is that the Titans are already under the 80-man roster limit for training camp by releasing five players on Wednesday, meaning they won't have to release anyone else to make room for Haynesworth on the roster.
JOHNSON UPDATE: The Titans also have the unfinished business of signing first-round pick Chris Johnson, their only unsigned draft pick remaining.
“Things are moving along pretty good,” Fisher said. “It may be a midnight hour thing tonight, but things are progressing. The dotting of the I’s and the crossing of the proverbial t’s may reach into practice.”
A league source indicated that the deal was not yet close to being completed.
Last year, Titans first-round pick Michael Griffin was late to the first day of training camp because of final approval by the NFL on his contract.
EXCUSED ABSENCES: Titans linebacker David Thornton and defensive end Jevon Kearse will not be on the practice field until Sunday because of personal matters.
Thornton is going to be the best man at his brother’s wedding this weekend, and Kearse will be a late arrival as he will be attending the funeral of former Titan Samari Rolle’s father.
INJURIES: Receiver Roydell Williams is still not ready to take part in camp and will miss the first few days with an injured ankle. Williams broke the ankle in January, and placing him on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) could be an option.
Cornerback Cary Williams will be delayed a few days as well because of a quadriceps injury suffered a couple of weeks ago.
Fisher said tackle Daniel Loper, still battling a leg injury from the offseason, might not be 100 percent at the start of camp.
PROCEDURE: Players were to report voluntarily on Thursday with mandatory meetings and weigh-ins set for Friday morning.
The Titans will have fewer two-a-day sessions during this camp with the first one scheduled for Tuesday. That afternoon will also mark the first fully padded practice for the Titans.
Also, the schedule may be adjusted, according to the heat, at certain stages as lights have been installed on one of the practice fields at Baptist Sports Park.