- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

When he had trouble doing simple tasks such as getting out of his car and picking up his son, Washington Redskins kicker John Hall felt his problem was more complex than a quadriceps or groin injury.

An evaluation late last season confirmed Hall’s suspicions, and he hopes surgery in January has ended his injury luck. He has missed 14 games in the last two seasons, but he missed only one during his first seven years in the NFL.

“It was a real relief because I’ve gotten better as a place kicker and feel more confident the older I get, so it was a downer to be making steps forward mentally and then to take steps backward physically,” Hall said yesterday after the Redskins completed their weekend minicamp. “Hopefully, I won’t have to deal with that again.”

Hall did little kicking during the minicamp — which was by design.

“I’ve been kicking enough to know where I’m at,” he said. “I’m still treating it like rehab and I’m not at full strength. But I’m headed in the right direction.”

Hall’s surgery repaired muscles that were detached from his pelvis and another muscle he said was “frayed like a rope.” Because of those injuries, Hall was overcompensating on his right side, which was a likely source of his hamstring (2004) and quadriceps (2005) ailments.

Hall kicked in pain last season, especially in the final four weeks.

“It was mainly the quad and then it started going to my groin,” he said. “The last four weeks were a grind — I never want that to happen again but we were on such a great run, I beared down and did what I could.”

Hall made 12 of 14 field goals last year and is 44-for-58 in three seasons with the Redskins.

“He’s a top-notch kicker in this league but to maintain that caliber of play, you have to be healthy so that’s our whole objective with John,” special teams coach Danny Smith said.

Free agent Tyler Jones, who made 11 of 14 field goals for Hamburg of NFL Europe this spring, will compete with Hall.

Asked if Hall would have to be markedly outperformed because he’s the incumbent, Smith said: “Once they’re on the field, it’s competition and it doesn’t really matter where they’ve come from, who they are or what their credentials are. We’ll keep the best guy, period.”

Hall vs. Jones isn’t the only competition on special teams.

Incumbent punter Derrick Frost will also face camp competition from rookie David Lonie. Frost was signed by the Redskins before the third game last season and had 76 punts for a 36.7-yard net average, with 23 landing inside the 20-yard line. The Redskins’ ranked 20th in net punting average.

“We have to be in the top 10,” Smith said. “Our coverage is outstanding [second in the NFL last year], but we need to punt the ball a little better. I’m anxious to see where we can bring Derrick to now that we’ve had him a whole year.”

Frost radically changed his offseason routine, punting nearly half as much as normal.

“I always [over kick], but this year has been different,” he said. “I’m trying to focus more this year on quality reps. The two years I’ve played, I’ve definitely gotten worn down late in the season.”

Big on Betts

One player who has caught associate head coach Al Saunders’ attention is running back Ladell Betts, who is again slated to be a kick returner and backup to Clinton Portis this season.

“I don’t know if people realize what a quality player he is,” Saunders said. “He’s a three-dimensional player — he runs the ball, he can catch it and he can block well enough to be successful. Clinton is Clinton, one of the dominant backs in the NFL. Having somebody like Ladell has been a surprise because I knew he was good, but not this good.

“We’ll have situations where Ladell and Clinton will be in the game at the same time. Ladell deserves to play and we’ve got to find a way to get him on the field and not just as a back-up player to Clinton.”

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