- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Crumpled on the field in Philadelphia, Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall put out signs of an extensive problem. First, he was in the clear before he fell to the field in pain. The ball was on the opposite side, which caused Hall to precede his crumble with a pivot and plant. Hall was also reaching for a most tender area, above his heel and behind his ankle, indicating he may have an Achilles problem, though he thought it may be a calf issue. An MRI supported the worst-case conjecture. Hall had torn his left Achilles’ tendon. For the first time in his 12-year career, Hall’s time on the field lasted less than three games because of a season-ending surgery.

Hall, 31, estimates he began playing football consistently when he was 11 or 12 years old. Because of the injury, he has not motored around a field or trash-talked a receiver in the eight months since the tendon tear. Instead, he has been working toward a return projected to begin at training camp in August.
He tore the same tendon a second time when he slipped not long after his first surgery. He had to wait several weeks for his tendon to heal enough that he could again put weight on his left leg. He’s been locked into the tedium of rehabilitation exercises since.

Hall has evolved from non-weight-bearing to noisy sideline observer during organized team activities. He shouted on the sideline Tuesday at Redskins Park, while watching his teammates take a sweat-filled beating from a merciless sun and an increased practice tempo. Hall follows the altered schemes of new defensive coordinator Joe Barry with a piece of paper.

“I probably won’t do anything initially until training camp,” Hall said. “Right now, probably just wait until I get back out there on the field. Physically, I feel like I can do everything now. Just precautionary.”

Tuesday, he did light individual footwork drills. His cleats came off, and he went to observe seven-on-seven drills. He later hooked up with the training staff to do some more light running.

“Just trying to get in shape,” Hall said.

His age, as so often is the case, is a benefit and reason for questions. He’s played for three NFL teams — including seven seasons in Washington. His three trips to the Pro Bowl highlighted his skill at cornerback, but he hasn’t been selected for the team in five years. Being in the league since 2004 allows Hall to type “seen it all” on his resume, though the necessary experience to reach that status also clouds his future a bit on a team with multiple cornerback options.

The Redskins did receive some clarity at cornerback Wednesday when they cut oft-injured Tracy Porter. Coach Jay Gruden mentioned Tuesday that he was impressed with Hall’s accelerated recovery. Cutting Porter appears to be a nod toward the confidence the Redskins have that Hall can return and be effective.

“He’s coming along very fast from the Achilles surgery,” Gruden said. “I knew he would be. He’s at a stage of his career where he knows how important preparation is, both on and off the field. Physically, he’s got to get himself ready to go after that injury, and it’s going to take some time, but he has shown major, major improvements already.”

Gruden initially explained that Hall’s second Achilles tear occurred when he slipped in the kitchen fetching late-night pizza. Hall reiterated Tuesday he “slipped,” then fell, causing a second tear. He said re-injuring the same spot in a way more associated with comedy duo hijinks than an elite professional athlete was not off-putting.

“Really no reaction,” Hall said. “I was a couple weeks behind. It wasn’t a huge setback. It wasn’t like I was eight, nine weeks out and had to go from Phase 1. I was pretty much a couple weeks out [from the first surgery]. Still non-weight-bearing, hadn’t done anything. So, if I was going to tear it again, that was a good time to tear it, they said.”

He laughed when it was suggested that there may not be a good time to tear an Achilles’ tendon.

After his mishap, Hall said he knew something was wrong. Like that day in Philadelphia, Hall’s level of pain suggested another high-end problem which was again confirmed by the loud pops and whirs of an MRI machine.

The injury put Hall into a winter and spring of rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the Redskins‘ young cornerback tandem of David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland worked on all-around improvements. Each has grappled with the wobbling starts most young players go through when adapting to the professional level. Breeland appeared to figure out the speed of the game as his rookie season went along, providing thumping tackles and bravado. However, the anticipated catapult for Amerson to move from promising rookie to stable second-year player last season did not happen. He struggled.

The Redskins also gave former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver a lavish four-year, $32 million deal in the offseason. Culliver received $5 million just for signing his name. Combined with Amerson and Breeland, Culliver’s arrival puts Hall in a new position during training camp. His role may be reduced, since the Redskins have restructured their cornerback depth following Hall’s ominous reach for his leg in Week 3 of last season.

“I’ve got a lot left in the tank … so I think,” Hall said.

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