The calls and text messages started flooding DeAngelo Hall’s phone Sunday evening, shortly after he said the following: “The way I’m playing right now, they need to go cut me, because I’m definitely not worth what I’m getting.” They came from Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger, from Larry Fitzgerald and Chad Ochocinco, not to mention his mother.
“She’s like, ‘Are you okay?’” Hall said Wednesday. “I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m good. If they’re going to point the finger, I’d rather they point it at me than anybody else.’”
Hall, the Washington Redskins’ outspoken and occasionally outlandish cornerback, began the finger-pointing process in the hour after Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss to Dallas, a game in which his slip in coverage helped allow Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant to roam free and make the catch that set up the winning field goal. Wednesday, Hall didn’t waver from his initial assessment or hide from his own culpability, but he made it clear that play won’t singularly mar his season, nor send him spiraling toward depression.
“I wear the ‘C’ on my chest for a reason,” said Hall, who joins linebacker London Fletcher as a defensive captain. “I hold myself to a higher standard than a lot of other people. That was definitely a play I felt like I should’ve made, we should’ve made as a team.
“I told somebody: People think I’m on suicide watch. I’m perfectly fine. Still swagged out. Still feel like I’m one of the best in the game.”
A year ago, Hall matched a career high with six interceptions, including a record-tying four in one game against Chicago. He returned one of those 92 yards for a touchdown, and his return of a fumble for a score clinched a victory over Dallas. Those moments helped earn him a spot in the Pro Bowl, and when he returned a fumble for a score and had a pick in that game, he won MVP honors.
“He’s a professional,” defensive lineman Barry Cofield said. “He’s a guy who cares a tremendous amount about what he does.”
But this season, Hall’s opportunities have been infrequent. He and fellow starting cornerback Josh Wilson have combined for just one interception — Hall’s pick in a Week 6 loss to Philadelphia. The plays for which Hall is most remembered this season aren’t particularly positive — a 73-yard touchdown pass to Arizona’s Fitzgerald in Week 2, Bryant’s 30-yard catch on third and 21 that set up another winning field goal for Dallas in Week 3.
So part of Hall’s self-assessment came because — in the midst of a six-game losing streak — he was aware of how precious each chance has become.
“I just made that statement because there’s a couple plays this season — I haven’t had a lot of chances to make plays,” he said, “and when the chance presents itself, I want to make it, and to not make it is definitely kind of frustrating for us.”
The frustration spills throughout a Redskins defense that has, generally, played well, though it has allowed some back-breaking drives. The most frustration, though, may come from an inability to consistently generate turnovers. Only six teams have fewer than the Redskins’ seven interceptions, a factor in Washington’s minus-10 turnover ratio, tied for worst in the NFL.
“You get an interception and score, the percentages of losing that game are fairly low,” said Wilson, who had nine interceptions in three years as a starter with Seattle but is still looking for his first here. “We want to do anything to change the game. We want to be game-changers.”
Hall is aware that some fans believe he changes games for the worse, because every completion in his direction must, naturally, be his fault. He doesn’t seem to mind those assessments, either.
“I don’t sit back and look at every single ball and say, ‘Oh that was my fault,’ ” he said. “There was a couple times in the [Dallas] game where balls were caught either on me or on my side. If somebody [says] it’s on me, that’s fine. I’m not going to argue about that. The coaches upstairs know what’s behind the game plan and what we’re trying to do.”
The coaches, generally, are pleased with Hall’s play this year – even without the normal number of turnovers. He has been stronger in run support, registering 12 tackles two weeks ago against San Francisco and 11 last week against Dallas. And his postgame rant didn’t seem to rankle anyone in the locker room — or in the coaches’ offices.
“I think that’s what winners do,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “Hey, you got to be accountable, but you got 24 hours to wipe it out, too. You’re disappointed you didn’t do something that you wanted to get done, and now you get ready for the next week and put that behind you.”
That was the message, Hall said, when he heard from peers on other teams, “guys in the league telling me how great I was as a corner.” From his telling, though, Hall didn’t even need to be propped up. He will play a game, make a play or not, rip himself if he fails — and move on.
“We don’t need anybody else going in the tank or feeling bad about theirselves,” Hall said. “We need the best performance out of everybody. I’m the kind of guy, I can take that. I’ve taken it before. I’ve won some games. I’ve lost some games.”
Rick Maese contributed to this report.