By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Washington Redskins experienced mixed emotions yesterday as they came back from their bye week, welcoming recently acquired cornerback DeAngelo Hall and expressing concern about injured running back Clinton Portis, whose chances of playing Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys are only "50-50," Coach Jim Zorn said.
As Washington resumed its work at Redskins Park, excitement about the acquisition of Hall, who signed a one-year deal Friday, was tempered by Portis's unclear status because of a knee sprain that has worsened since the team's last game, a 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 3.
Although Zorn remained optimistic that Portis -- the league's second-leading rusher with 995 yards -- would play against the Redskins' NFC East rival, he acknowledged "it would be a major issue for all of us" if he sat out.
The Redskins would be severely short-handed at running back if Portis is sidelined and primary backup Ladell Betts misses his fourth straight game because of a sprained left knee. If Betts comes back, he would play ahead of Shaun Alexander, Zorn said, and special teams standout Rock Cartwright would continue to return kicks, though his role in other areas on special teams would be reduced because of the team's depth problems.
And without Portis, Washington might use a "community approach," Zorn added, dividing carries evenly.
Meanwhile, Hall took things slowly on the first day of what he hoped would be the beginning of a long career with the Redskins. The two-time Pro Bowl performer, Chesapeake, Va., native and all-American at Virginia Tech was released last week by the Oakland Raiders after a half-season with them. Oakland traded two draft picks to the Atlanta Falcons for Hall in the offseason and then awarded him a seven-year, $70 million contract.
"Not all money is good money," Hall said, alluding to his bad experience with the Raiders. "I was so eager to get out of Atlanta, I just kind of rushed into anything. I kind of saw the money, ran out there, and didn't really give it a chance to really look things over and see where I fit in. That's what I tried to do after being released. I tried to do that with all the teams that were inquiring about me, and this one showed a lot of positives."
The eighth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Hall was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He possesses exceptional coverage skills and has displayed a knack for making long returns on interceptions, but his candid nature contributed to his relationship with the organization having deteriorated beyond repair last season. Falcons owner Arthur Blank, in a recent radio interview, said Hall "needs to grow up."
Hall did not play down his past problems in a lengthy group interview session with reporters yesterday, but pointed out he is only "24 years old." "I have had a lot of success early with Pro Bowls and things like that, but I am still young. I still have a lot to learn, a lot of maturing to do, and that all comes with time.
"A lot of these owners and [general managers], they know who I am. The media really doesn't matter when it comes to keeping a job or getting a job. It's really these owners and these GMs out in this league. They know who I am."
Hall, whose contract with Oakland was voided because he cleared waivers, joined the Redskins for a prorated $1 million over the final seven games. He would be eligible for free agency after the season, and Hall hopes to put down roots with Washington. The Redskins, however, are taking a wait-and-see approach with a player who had a reputation of being a disruptive presence in locker rooms with his previous teams.
Several Redskins players said they were interested to see whether Hall would be satisfied simply being the newest member of Washington's productive, veteran cornerback group that also includes Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot.
"Corners, we're going to watch other corners," Smoot said. "We're going to always look and see who's playing well. He's always been one of them corners he plays well. Very fast, very talkative, he fits in this group very well."
To make room for Hall on the 53-man roster, the Redskins released nickel cornerback Leigh Torrence, also a key contributor on special teams, who was popular with teammates because of his work ethic and selfless approach. Hall, a part-time punt returner for two seasons with the Falcons, might be required to play some special teams, Zorn said, but Antwaan Randle El remains the team's lead punt returner.
Hall has 20 interceptions in 65 career games, including three interceptions in eight games this season, and has returned two for touchdowns in his career. He takes risks in coverage, and according to STATS Inc., was susceptible to major breakdowns with the Raiders. Offenses have thrown at Hall 66 times this season, completing 40 passes for 552 yards.
"That's the only way you get to the Pro Bowl. You take calculated risks," secondary coach Jerry Gray said. "You don't take riverboat-gambling risks. You've got to have a guy that understands what risks he can take and what risks he can't take.
"I've never been around a great corner that didn't take risks. You can't play it safe all the time, but you can't throw all your money it at one time either."
Hall wants to fit in, he said often yesterday, and he has a clean slate with Washington, several Redskins team leaders said.
"You always give anybody the benefit of the doubt, when they come in, that they're a professional," said defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, one of the Redskins' six captains. "This is a professional sport, and you have to trust that guys are going to come in with the right attitude and do things the right way.
"But as far as what happened in the past and what people [in the media] say about him, I don't know if that's stuff true or not. But I do know that he's in our locker room right now, and you have to give him a chance to fit in. I think he will."
In the first team meeting after the bye, Zorn encouraged players to reach out to Hall and teach him how the close-knit squad functions. "He will," Zorn said, "have to earn his teammates' respect."