DeAngelo Hall: Always something happening, good or bad, this season

December 20, 2012

It has been, to say the least, an eventful season for DeAngelo Hall, a season in which something always seems to be swirling around the Washington Redskins cornerback.

He has had battles with referees and media members as well as with opposing wide receivers. He has been fined more than $65,000 by the NFL. He has been, at times, the focal point of fans’ wrath over the missteps of a Redskins secondary that once seemed practically defenseless against opponents’ quarterbacks and receivers.

But winning is a virtual cure-all in the NFL. And now, with Hall and fellow members of the team’s defensive backfield contributing to the turnaround that has the Redskins poised to reach the playoffs, the season’s turmoil seems perfectly tolerable to Hall, as does the disparagement that has come his way in often sizable amounts.

“You kind of learn to take the criticism over time,” he said in a wide-ranging interview this week in a Centreville restaurant after he finished his weekly radio show. “But you never learn to like it. . . . You’re not happy about it. But when it happens, it happens.”

Hall is tied with linebacker London Fletcher for the team lead with four interceptions, and has mixed big plays with contributions to the misadventures of the Redskins’ secondary. Washington is ranked 30th among the league’s 32 teams in pass defense. Six of the first seven quarterbacks to face the Redskins this season topped 300 passing yards; the other one, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Josh Freeman, threw for 299.

When the Redskins’ season appeared in ruins at 3-6 before the November bye week, the secondary was singled out as the main culprit. Newspaper columnists and fans on the Internet assailed Hall’s play.

“I feel like the secondary as a whole, we’ve been up and down,” Hall said. “We’ve given up plays. But at the same time, we’ve made plays. We’ve lost games. We’ve won games. In this league, you want to make more positive plays than negative plays you give up, is what you want to do. But I mean, it’s no secret: We’ve got to be better. We’ve blown some things.”

The secondary’s arc, though, is like the rest of the team’s: The direction is upward. In the last seven games, only one opposing passer has topped 300 yards.

“We’re not worried about anything people want to say about us, anything people think about us,” cornerback Josh Wilson said Thursday at Redskins Park. “We’re just going out here and making sure that we help our team win. If you guys and everybody in this world calls us the worst four or five guys ever to step on the football field, we’ll be happy as long as we’ve got a Super Bowl championship.”

When it comes to assessing the season that he is having personally, Hall is relatively noncommittal.

“Defensive back is a position that is kind of tricky,” he said. “Sometimes you can get beat and it might not really be you. Sometimes you can get beat and it doesn’t look like you and it is you. So as long as the coaching staff and the guys in that locker room feel I’m playing good enough, that’s all that really matters.”

The nature of the position he plays, Hall said, lends itself to being evaluated at one extreme or the other, with little room for middle-of-the-road assessments.

“As a secondary and a defensive back, man, you can play good 59 plays, give up one pass and then you had a terrible game,” Hall said. “I mean, you can make every open-field tackle. You can break up a pass. You can break up curls, break up digs, jump comebacks, break up slants and get beat on a 60-, 70-yard fade and it’s like, ‘Man, this dude ain’t [good].’ That’s the position we play, good or bad.

“You can play [defensive] end and get dominated all game, get one sack or two sacks and [it’s], ‘He had a hell of a game.’

“It’s the position we picked,” Hall said. “And we picked it. . . I love being a corner. I wouldn’t change it for nothing in the world. Maybe I’d have stuck with baseball. But as far as football goes, I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett believes Hall has had a good season.

“I think DeAngelo has played well,” Haslett said. “I think he’s played well all year. I think you can’t really measure it by the number of interceptions. From that standpoint, he’s been pretty good. But I think overall his play has been good.”

But Hall’s season has been about more than the interceptions he has amassed or the catches he has surrendered. It has been an exercise in the notion that, as he put it at one point on his radio show, trouble just seems to follows him.

Hall was fined $30,000 by the NFL after he was ejected from the Redskins’ loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 28. The ejection followed a verbal confrontation with head linesman Dana McKenzie following a play late in the game. Hall removed his helmet and appeared to use profanity. Hall said during this week’s interview he was accused of profanely threatening to kill the official, which he denies.

He also was sharply critical of the league’s investigation of the incident and its handling of Hall’s appeal, saying he still hasn’t been told whether his penalty will be reduced or whether McKenzie will be disciplined. Hall said he now thinks he should have hired an outside attorney to bring a legal challenge. He still might consider that, he said, if he determines it’s not too late.

“The situation in Pittsburgh, it was just a bad situation,” Hall said. “I’m still going through the proper channels to try to figure out what we can do as far as just rectifying that.”

But Hall said the incident hasn’t ruined his season or even his on-field relationship with officials.

“It happened that particular end of the game. And I was done with it,” he said. “I see refs. They still . . . pull me to the side, want to talk. That’s what was weird about that particular instance, because I never have a problem with a ref. Like I told the investigators, I play a position that is such a fine line. You can’t cuss a guy out and if you touch a guy, he can call a flag. Why would I cuss a guy out that can throw a flag every time I’m out there covering somebody? I try to love them up. . . I’m definitely not in the business of cussing out referees.”

When reporters approached Hall about the fine as he was leaving the practice field in November, he told them: “Back up off me, bro.” There was a yelling match with a Washington Post reporter just outside the locker room at Redskins Park later in November over a quote in a story that Hall disputed. That incident was quickly put to rest without disciplinary action against Hall. But he was fined $35,750 by the league for a pair of infractions, a horse-collar tackle and a late hit, during the Redskins’ victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.

That is the combative side of Hall. There also is the charming side, on display when he interacted amiably with autograph-seeking fans Tuesday night at his radio show.

Ultimately, Hall said, his season will be defined by what he and the Redskins do in the games that remain.

“To kind of see what’s in front of us right now, it’s definitely special,” Hall said. “I feel like guys like myself, London, a lot of other guys who’ve been on this team just as long, they understand what’s in front of us — trying to win the division, having a home playoff game and then taking our show on the road.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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