RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — At a closed-door meeting during spring workouts, DeAngelo Hall stood before his Washington Redskins teammates and downplayed his “MeAngelo” antics.
“He said he’s made some decisions that he would like to change, which takes a lot for a man to say in front of other men,” safety Ryan Clark said. “It takes a lot to put your ego aside and tell people that you’re not perfect. That was a moment where I gained a lot of respect for him, but also a lot of admiration.”
Mention Hall, and the phrase “temperamental hothead” is just as likely to come to mind as “three-time Pro Bowl cornerback.”
He’s been both in his decade in the NFL, making big plays against quarterbacks while fomenting nasty public feuds with coaches, officials and opponents.
He is now 30, and he’s being asked to play a new role: mature team leader. With longtime defensive captain London Fletcher retired, new coach Jay Gruden is counting on Hall to set an example for the youngsters on defense.
“It’s going to be the first camp in a long time that I haven’t had a guy like Fletch around,” Hall said this week at training camp. “So definitely the onus is on me. Meeting with Jay this offseason, he kind of stressed that to me and I embraced it. I felt like I was ready for it. London, I tried to stay in his hip pocket as much as possible, so I’m definitely up for the challenge.”
Hall still speaks his mind, but the nasty public spats don’t come as often as they used to. The nature of his position — going mano-a-mano with the best wideouts in the game every play — creates a natural intensity that can manifest itself in various ways.
“He still has that stigma about him,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “People see him throw a flag. People see him yell at officials. People see him yell at a coach — he yelled at me one time.
“I see the passion. I see the love of the game. I see when he gets upset when things aren’t going right.”
Hall also gets rankled when he’s not listed among the top cornerbacks in the league. He has a theory about that.
“My reputation kind of precedes me a little bit,” he said. “It is what it is. I don’t go out there to try to please the media or the guys who are ranking corners. Probably earlier in my career I did, but now I’m all about just — the proof is in the pudding.”
And he thinks there’s plenty of proof in that pudding. His 43 interceptions rank third in the NFL over the past decade behind Ed Reed (52) and Asante Samuel (49). His 715 combined tackles and assists rank second behind Charles Tillman (773), reflecting Hall’s development as a punishing physical player.
“As a corner if you don’t feel like you’re the best, you’ve got a problem right there,” Hall said. “But I never said I was the best. I would be a fool to think 11 years in I’m the best in the game right now. But I definitely think I’m pretty successful at doing what I do.
“Like I said, man, if you really watch film, let’s go watch film and I put my film against any corner in the league and we’ll see what he does, we’ll see what I do, and we can go from there. I definitely think that if you put me out there against a receiver, any one of them, I’ll take my chances. I never said I was the best, but I definitely feel like I should be in the conversation.”
There a bit of MeAngelo in a statement such as that, and Gruden has no problem with it.
“I did hear about DeAngelo Hall a little bit, some of the reputation, the things that happened, the attitude that he has,” Gruden said. “But as a cornerback, you kind of want some of that attitude, that cockiness, that confident air about you as long as it doesn’t affect your play. He’s proven the last few years that it doesn’t affect his play, and I think he’s calmed down a little bit. He knows what being a pro is all about.”
Note: Gruden’s brother, Jon, visited practice and also spoke at a high school coaches’ clinic at the nearby Science Museum. Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was asked if he was drawing up any plays for his younger brother. “Not today,” he answered with a laugh. “But I’m sure that’ll be in the works at some point.”
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