- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2003

Want to get LaVar Arrington fired up? Stick a defenseless quarterback five yards in front of him.

Want to get LaVar Arrington really fired up? Ask him a question about John Hall.

Yes, that John Hall. The Washington Redskins kicker.

“I’m telling you, if we had John Hall in my rookie year [2000], we might have won it. We might have won it all,” Arrington said. “We lost all our games on field goals. We missed about two or three field goals a game. I think the combined total of the scores we lost those games was seven or eight points.”

Arrington’s memory (and math) may be a little off, but he makes a valid point. The Redskins went through an astounding five kickers during the tumultuous 2000 season and lost six games by six or fewer points.

Surely the presence of a single, reliable kicker would have made some difference in that 8-8 season. One like Hall, who was dazzling in his Washington debut Thursday night. Facing his former New York Jets team, the free agent pickup was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and drilled a 33-yarder with five seconds left to give the Redskins a 16-13 victory.

Despite the pressure situation, Hall’s game-winner was a sure thing as far as his teammates were concerned.

“I knew it was over,” Arrington said. “Did you see? When we got that run by Ladell Betts [an 11-yard burst to the Jets’ 17], I was jumping on the dang benches because I knew it was over.”

That kind of confidence is afforded only a handful of kickers in the NFL. Hall certainly falls into that category — unlike the 11 other kickers the Redskins have used over the last six years.

During that period, the Redskins had more kickers than any other team. According to the “Monday Night Football” stats crew, that’s the most any NFL team has used over a six-year stretch.

The names roll off the tongue like a list of, oh, Canadian Parliament members.

There were Scott Blanton and Chris Jacke. Cary Blanchard, David Akers and Brett Conway. Scott Bentley, Eddie Murray, Kris Heppner and Michael Husted. And don’t forget James Tuthill and Jose Garcia last year.

Veteran Redskins don’t even bother trying to recall the names.

“Oh, I don’t remember them all,” tackle Chris Samuels said. “There’s been a lot of them through here.”

Based on early returns, it appears the spinning wheel will finally come to rest on Hall. And, if the Redskins’ offseason hunch was right, it could stay there for a while.

One of Washington’s top priorities during the offseason was to shore up its shaky special teams play from last year. Priority No.1 was to find a reliable kicker, and Hall fit the bill. A six-year veteran with the Jets, he was a career 73.7 percent field goal kicker (77.4 percent over the last two seasons) and an available free agent to boot.

Owner Dan Snyder rushed in and offered the 29-year-old a five-year, $7.1million contract — big money for a kicker. Hall signed, joined the Redskins for their post-draft minicamp and was immediately accepted.

Football players aren’t often friendly with kickers, but Hall won his teammates’ acceptance early on. His strong and accurate leg (which led to a 6-for-6 record on field goals during the preseason) certainly helped, but his linebacker-like physique (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) and toughness sealed the deal.

“It’s tough,” said Hall, who wears a burgundy jersey (same as the defense) during practice. “You’ve got to meet new people and get familiar with new surroundings. So it’s important to get off to a good start.”

By Thursday’s opener, Hall already had the complete confidence of his entire team. When the Redskins drove to the New York 32 on their first offensive series, some might have wondered whether coach Steve Spurrier would try to “pooch” punt the ball down near the goal line.

Spurrier wasn’t thinking along those lines.

“I said, ‘John, you can reach it from there, can’t you?’” Spurrier recalled. “He says, ‘Sure.’ And I said, ‘Well, go kick it then.’ We felt like he certainly can hit from 50 [yards] easily.”

Hall indeed hit his 50-yard attempt, clearing the crossbar with several yards to spare. He added a 22-yarder late in the second quarter, then trotted out to attempt the game-winner in the waning moments.

“He was so cool and calm out there,” Samuels said.

When it was over and the game was won, Hall didn’t gloat about beating his former team. And the next morning, he maintained his steely demeanor by putting his Redskins debut behind him and focusing on next Sunday’s game at Atlanta.

“I don’t really make too much of it,” Hall said of the game-winner. “I would like to beat the Falcons next week. That’s really the most important thing at this point, to get another win and then just stack them up.”

Said veteran punter Bryan Barker: “That’s the sign of a true professional — you don’t get too high with the good, and you don’t get too low with the bad. That’s the only way you’ll survive in this league, and he’s survived for quite a few years. I’d say that he’s absolutely a true professional.”

A professional who, in a very short time, has won the admiration and respect of his teammates.

“I think J. Hall is huge,” Arrington said. “I told him he could wear my jersey if he wants. … J. Hall is my guy.”

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