Outspoken DeAngelo Hall Chemistry Test for Redskins

Cornerback joins talented defense

DeAngelo Hall's first regular day with the Washington Redskins was more of a chemistry test than a football exercise.

Coach Jim Zorn opened a team meeting by directly addressing the outspoken cornerback's potential effect on the team's united locker room. Players conjured various scenarios about playing time for the two-time Pro Bowl player, who joins a cornerback crew that already includes two other former first-round draft picks (Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs) as well as a former second-rounder (Fred Smoot).

"Four different starters. Four different attitudes. Cocky, conceited guys," Rogers said with a smile. "But we're going to make it work. You ain't going to break up no chemistry or nothing like that. It's a lot of talented guys on the field, so we have no choice but to make it work."

Hall signed a one-year contract Saturday and had his first practice Monday as the Redskins returned from a bye-week break.

But his reputation had arrived well ahead of him, especially after he was cut last week by the Oakland Raiders just eight games into a seven-year, $70 million contract. He previously spent four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, where his obvious talent was sometimes overshadowed by his clashes with coach Bobby Petrino.

"I'm 24 years old," Hall said, addressing reporters at Redskins Park for the first time. "I have had a lot of success in this league, but I am still young. I still have a lot to learn. I still have a lot of maturing to do, and that all comes with time."

Zorn, therefore, couldn't ignore the elephant in the room. The Redskins are 6-3 in part because the players are a tight unit, and he wanted to make sure the high-profile addition didn't add any friction.

"You have to discuss the idea of whether he can fit in," Zorn said. "And one thing I challenged our players with today, and that was to make sure everybody introduces themselves and grabs him into the group -- because these guys could have an attitude of, 'Well, this is our team, and you're just coming in here,' and that can't be the way it is."

The coach's words were echoed by linebacker London Fletcher, one of the team's six captains.

"Everybody has their own individual personalities, you've got to accept that," Fletcher said. "At the same time, he has to fit in to what we're doing, and we also have to embrace him and understand and reach out to him."

Secondary coach Jerry Gray said he envisions Hall playing 20 to 30 plays Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. What happens after that is anyone's guess, especially if all four top cornerbacks get healthy at the same time. Springs is currently struggling to return from a calf injury and could be moved to safety, while Rogers (heel) and Smoot (groin) have been playing despite nagging injuries.

Gray pointed out that Hall has three interceptions this year, a modest number perhaps, but that's one more than Rogers, Springs and Smoot combined.

"It's 'How do you work a good player in with an already good unit?'" Gray said. "That's going to be my job, is to make sure the guys understand he's not here to take away, he's here to add."

Hall was a rare commodity, a young, skilled, injury-free player available for practically nothing in the middle of the season. Hall said that "every team in the league" expressed interest after the Raiders cut him, but he chose the Redskins because they are winning; because he envisions signing a deal that will keep him with the team beyond this season; and because he liked the idea of coming home -- he grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia and went to Virginia Tech.

In fact, Hall had considered the Redskins when the Falcons had him on the trading block last winter. He now says he erred in choosing the Raiders.

"I was so eager to get out of Atlanta, I just kind of rushed in," Hall said. "Not all money is good money, and I just kind of ran out there, saw the money, and didn't really give it a chance to look things over and see where I fit in the defensive scheme."

Hall also tried to clear a few misconceptions. First, he said Raiders owner Al Davis told him that his release from Oakland wasn't performance-related.

"What he told me was, 'We're not as good as I thought we were as a team, so we need to try to free up some (salary cap) room.' ... It wasn't anything I did," Hall said. "A lot of people in the media speculated that I came in there and I was just all over the place, all rampant, doing whatever I wanted to do, and that wasn't the case at all."

Hall has been beaten 40 times for a league-high 552 yards, according to data compiled by STATS, but he said that was because the Raiders' system did not suit his talents.

"I just don't think it gave me the best chance to succeed," Hall said. "I like to make plays. I like to be in the end zone. I have to have the ball in my hands, and when you're playing so much man-to-man it's kind of hard to get interceptions, it's hard to make plays. I like to look at the quarterback, and when you look at the quarterback too much you get beat on comebacks and things like that. I was kind of suffering giving up those kind of plays to try to make plays."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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