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On Football: Redskins Reached Out to One Another While Reaching Out to Hall

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

While Jim Zorn was sitting in his office at Redskins Park last week, asking himself if the front office should try to sign cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the same topic was under discussion across the hall. In the personnel department, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato and his staff were pulling their reports on Hall, and having the first in a web of conversations that resulted in the team landing the former Virginia Tech star.

The process would involve numerous chats among coaches, exchanges between Cerrato and Zorn, Cerrato and Hall's agent, between coaches and players and even between Hall, 24, and Redskins players.

Team officials decided the potential rewards of Hall's man coverage and big-play skills outweighed any concerns about him becoming a disruptive force in what has been a close and relaxed locker room. Hall's behavioral issues that led Oakland and Atlanta to part with him were considered, with coaches and management ultimately convinced he could help the team.

"We hope that DeAngelo works out," Zorn said. "But is it a risk? Absolutely. It's absolutely a risk."

Though Cerrato has final say over personnel , Zorn said the coaching staff played a significant role in the move. All were not thrilled Hall's arrival led to the release of reserve corner and special teams standout Leigh Torrence (special teams coach Danny Smith in particular, Zorn said), but Zorn said there was a consensus among coaches, executives and scouts to sign the free agent to a one-year deal worth about $500,000.

"If I was dead against it, there was no way it could have happened," Zorn said matter-of-factly. "Vinny wouldn't put that on me, 'You have to take him.' And I wouldn't do that to [defensive coordinator] Greg [Blache]: 'You have to take him.'

"There is definitely a working relationship with everybody. That makes it good, and it should be that way in a midseason [acquisition], and probably even that way in every situation, even in the draft.

"But somebody eventually has to go, 'We all agree.' And when [the move] happens, we all do agree. It doesn't matter who had a little bit of a doubt; there is no doubt anymore. It's that type of thing. Now we've got to really make it work for all involved."

When Hall went on waivers Nov. 5, Zorn said he initially worried about placing such a strong personality among a proud group of backs that had become the strength of the defense. Zorn wondered why a struggling team like Oakland would part so quickly with a player they gave up so much -- second- and a fifth-round picks, plus a seven-year deal worth a maximum of $70 million -- to get.

"I was thinking that we should check into" getting Hall, Zorn said. "But I don't have enough pride in my need to be in charge to go, 'We're getting him, I don't care what you guys think, we're getting him.' So it has to fit with Greg's plan and the guy we had to deal with, too, was Danny Smith. I took a special teams guy [Torrence] from him, and that was hard."

Zorn was on the phone with Blache, who left Redskins Park late last week for a hunting trip, as well as cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray, wanting to make sure they were comfortable with the move. He was speaking to Cerrato regularly, getting details on what other teams were in the hunt, what kind of contract Hall would likely seek on the open market.

"Some of the conversations don't even have to last that long," Zorn said. "Just, 'Should we pursue it?' "


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