The Raiders flat-out cut DeAngelo Hall on Wednesday. Just months after signing the former Virginia Techie to a seven-year deal worth more than the Bay Bridge, the team tired of his act - his underperforming, his mindless jabbering - and pointed him toward the exit.
If we can be in last place with ya, pal, we can be in last place without ya.
(Which raises the question: Why couldn't the Redskins have done that with Adam Archuleta?)
It's always big news in the NFL when, for reasons short of murder, a player is fired with 6 1/2 years and as much as $64 million still left on his contract. It's especially noteworthy when a starting-quality corner becomes available AFTER the trading deadline. When was the last time that happened? After all, the whole world is looking for secondary help.
Beyond that, though, the story is intriguing because it's another example of a Cornerback Behaving Badly. Only a few weeks ago, you may recall, the Cowboys packed Pacman Jones off to an alcohol treatment facility after he scuffled with his bodyguard - which is kind of like President Bush mixing it up with the head of the Secret Service. Earlier in the season, the Eagles' Lito Sheppard whined about being demoted to nickel corner (and stood by while his hired mouthpiece, Drew Rosenhaus, talked about the "disappointment" Lito felt having to play behind Sheldon Brown).
All we need to make the season complete is for Fred Smoot, the Captain Stubing of Lake Minnetonka, to arrange another boat cruise.
Seriously, something is going on here. Not so long ago, wide receivers were the dominant divas in pro football. If Terrell Owens wasn't questioning his quarterback's sexuality, then Randy Moss was leaving a game before it was over. If Joe Horn wasn't placing a phone call from the end zone, then Chad Johnson was changing his last name to match his jersey number. If Michael Irvin wasn't asking a cop, "Do you know who I am?" then Keyshawn Johnson was telling people to just throw him the blasted ball.
After a while, it became a contest. Who can be the most outrageous? Who can get on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Who can push the boundaries of propriety the furthest? (Bonus points every time a TV type - Andrea Kremer, say - asks you if you're "misunderstood.")
Anyway, this affliction - call it the Screaming Me-me-me-mies - seems to be spreading to cornerbacks. Which is understandable, I suppose. Corners and wideouts play in close promixity and trash-talk a lot. It could very well be an airborne virus. To prevent it from becoming an epidemic, surgical masks may be in order ... or at least helmet shields.
Clearly, these guys can't help themselves. Jones' serial offenses earned him a one-year suspension, which he had just completed when he lapsed again last month. As for Hall, put it this way: He and Ocho Cinco are said to be buddies.
In fact, they once made a bet before a game between the Falcons and Bengals. If Johnson caught two touchdown passes, Hall would have to serve as a waiter at an Atlanta restaurant owned by a Cincinnati player. If Johnson fell short, he would have to shave off his bleach-blond mohawk.
The mohawk lost. The next time the two squared off, DeAngelo shaved "I OWN U 85" into the back of his head. (The things a cornerback has to do to get noticed, even when he's a two-time Pro Bowl selection.)
As Hall gained recognition, though, his performance and behavior became more unpredictable - enough for the Falcons to trade him during the offseason for two draft picks, neither a first-rounder. Being an incurable drama queen, he wasn't sure at that point "if I even wanted to play football anymore," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and his loose coverage in his first game as a Raider suggested as much. He made Broncos rookie Eddie Royal, a fellow Hokie, look like Jerry Rice (whereas a couple of years earlier, he would have made him look like Condoleezza Rice).
Two months later, Hall is gone, left out on the curb for any team to take. Granted, Raiders owner Al Davis has a strange way of doing business, but no stranger, certainly, than his banished cornerback's egocentric worldview.
Hall probably won't have to wait long for the phone to ring. He may be high-maintenance, but he also has 20 interceptions at the age of 24 and once, on a dare, entered the NFL's Fastest Man competition - and won. Players like that always get second, third and 23rd chances.
Somebody - perhaps Bill Belichick, perhaps Jerry Jones - will think they can get through to Hall, save him from himself. Lots of luck, fellas. Just make sure to take out accident insurance. There's bound to be one.