London Fletcher’s retirement leaves the Redskins with a big void when it comes to a strong, veteran, vocal leadership presence. Head coach Jay Gruden believes that cornerback DeAngelo Hall can fill that role.
Shortly after his hiring in January, Gruden reached out to Hall, whose contract had expired, and expressed a desire to re-sign him because of his skills and his ability to help lead the team. Hall, who in 2013 had one of the finest seasons of his career, eventually traveled to from his offseason home in Atlanta to meet with Gruden and liked what he heard, signing a new contract roughly a month before he would’ve hit the free agent market.
“That was very important,” Gruden said this week when asked about re-signing Hall. “DeAngelo’s one of those guys, he can move around and play the best receiver and at least you have a fighting chance. If you want to play some man-to-man, at least you have someone you feel good about. So he’s a Redskin. I think he likes the D.C. area. He likes the Redskin family. He’s a very loyal guy, obviously. He’s excited to get back. We’re happy to have DeAngelo. I had a chance to talk to him before we signed him and he’s changed a lot from his rookie year to now. He’s a veteran leader, player. We’re excited to have him and work with him.”
Hall, now an 11th-year veteran, has always had the reputation of being a fiery, and at times controversial, player. Over the course of his career, he has had run-ins with opposing players, an opposing coach and even an official. He has fallen out of favor with franchises and even got cut by the Raiders eight games into a season despite having signed a hefty contract. There have even been times where he hasn’t held back on publicly questioning his own coach’s decisions.
But last season, Hall turned over a new leaf. He matured, showed a greater respect and appreciation for the game and became one of Washington’s most reliable players both on the field – if not the most impactful on defense – and in the locker room. He remained vocal and never shied away from giving a frank assessment of the state of the team, but remained supportive of Mike Shanahan, even late in the season when it seemed as if the coach was doing his best to create controversy and get himself fired.
“I’ve matured so much over the last seven, eight, nine years in this league that, man,” Hall said on Friday. “You ask anybody would I be in this position 10 years ago, coming in as a flashy, loud-mouth rookie, I don’t think nobody would think that would be possible. So for me to see the progress I’ve made over the years, I think it’s definitely hats off not just to myself, but to coaches I’ve been around that have kind of molded me, and the people that have been in my life to help me along the way.”
Because of that, Gruden and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett told Hall to take on an even larger leadership role and essentially serve as an extension of the coach in the locker room and on the field.
“He’s a veteran guy,” Gruden said. “He’s changed a lot he’s been through the early years as a professional player, maybe the immature years and he’s gone through a lot and seen a lot.
“We need some people to step up and be that leader and police the locker room and make sure we hold a high standard for everybody,” Gruden continued. “If your players don’t do that, it’s very hard for a coach to maintain that. You have to have some leadership in the locker room and we’re hoping DeAngelo or whoever it might be steps up and makes sure the little things don’t go unnoticed and make sure people are on time to meetings. We won’t accept the fact that guys are late or lazy or not hustling to the ball and not coming off on the snap count and the pad levels low. When the players start to see the game through a coach’s eyes, that’s when you have a chance to be special as a team.”
Hall said he welcomes the added responsibility because he believes he can use the lessons learned during his career to help his younger teammates.
“Any time you can help share knowledge about situations you’ve been in and been through, you become a lot more credible. Absolutely,” Hall said. “I can talk to a young guy about a young guy coming in as a rookie playing, I can talk to him about being a knucklehead. I can talk to him about getting cut, about not thinking about themselves before the team. I can talk to them about being a team guy and the road I went down and how not to do it. There’s nothing like actually going through those experiences. A lot of guys see it from other guys, but they’re not actually the person that goes through it. So to be the person that went through it, I think definitely it brings knowledge, and people want to listen to you.”
He added, “They’ve always told me, believe it or not, ‘People follow you and look up to you.’ But to actually have a coach give me that responsibility, there’s not going to be another guy that works harder than me or will try to get the most out of these guys harder than me. I understand that I’m not going to play forever. I only have a couple more years, so I want everybody to give that shot in the present, and I’m going to give mine too.”
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