- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DeAngelo Hall’s sideline explosion last season in Atlanta and his disastrous first half this year in Oakland are so much history. The Washington Redskins looked past those issues to land a 24-year-old, two-time Pro Bowl cornerback on the cheap.

“It’s like Christmas had come early,” secondary coach Jerry Gray said. “I know what he did in Atlanta. The thing we’ve got to do is figure out what he can do for us now and how fast we can get him up to speed. … He can match up on the best receiver and make game-changing plays. Now they won’t throw that way all of a sudden.”

With Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on the other side, Oakland’s opponents were picking on Hall despite his Pro Bowl selections in 2005 and 2006 and his 17 career interceptions heading into the season - three of which he returned for touchdowns.

According to STATS, Hall was beaten 40 times - tied for third in the NFL - for a league-high 552 yards on 66 passes thrown his way in eight games with the Raiders, who gave him a seven-year, $70 million contract in March. But Gray didn’t even bother looking at video of those games.

That was just fine with Hall.

“That situation in Oakland kind of left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Hall said. “A lot of people in the media were speculating that I was running all over the place, doing whatever I wanted to do. That wasn’t the case at all. I’m 24 years old. I have had a lot of success in this league, but I’m still young. I still have a lot to learn. I still have a lot of maturing to do. That all comes with time.”

Linebacker London Fletcher, one of Washington’s defensive captains, said he isn’t worried about Hall, who was fined $100,000 for a sideline tantrum last season and then benched the next game.

“When you can add a player like that, it can only help our team,” Fletcher said. “We’ve got a great locker room. He has to fit in … but we have to embrace him and reach out to him to make him feel comfortable as quickly as possible.”

Cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot said they were happy to welcome a player of Hall’s magnitude into what the latter termed “the league of extraordinary gentlemen.” Leigh Torrence, who was surprisingly cut to make room for Hall, was popular and a fine special teams player, but he isn’t as accomplished as a cornerback.

“[Hall’s] one of the best in the league and a great addition to what we already have,” said Rogers, who has developed into a No. 1 corner with Springs sidelined the past four games with a calf injury. “It won’t break up the chemistry. Four potential starters … cocky guys, but we’re going to make it work.”

Hall vowed to do his part - and not just because he grew up rooting for the Redskins in Chesapeake, Va., and at Virginia Tech. He knows he’s auditioning to remain with the Redskins in 2009 or land another big contract elsewhere.

“I was so eager to get out of Atlanta [that] I really didn’t take my time,” said Hall, who was traded to Oakland for two draft picks in March. “If I did, I would’ve probably been here from the jump. I was so eager to get out that I ended up going to a situation that probably wasn’t the best for me, but at the end of the day, I’m where I wanted to be from the jump.

“I felt like this team was close to a championship. I felt like I did fit in, whether it was right away or in the future. I don’t mind working for what I get.”

That’s good because the Redskins certainly won’t hand Hall a starting job.

“He’s the type of player looking for a decent situation where the team is no-nonsense and the coaches are no-nonsense,” coach Jim Zorn said. “I think he can sigh this breath of fresh air and say, ‘Finally!’”

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