Before last offseason, 10-year veteran cornerback
After a three-day period in the middle of the 2008 season, Hall signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent. After his contract expired at the end of that season, Hall waited five days in free agency to re-sign with his hometown team.
When he was released this past offseason in a move needed to clear cap space against the NFL’s $18 million penalty, Hall found himself in a relatively unfamiliar position. He knew where he wanted to play, but needed to weigh his options.
“It was real important for me to return here this offseason,” he said in an exclusive interview with Redskins.com. “I did an interview with Darrell Green a couple weeks ago and he asked, ‘Are you a hired man? Are you a Redskin? What are you?’
“I’m like, ‘I’m a Redskin. I grew up a Redskins fan and I wanted to be considered a Redskin for the majority of my career. I felt like the defining moment was me signing back here to get that deal done to come back here.’”
Hall was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2004 and played there four seasons before signing a blockbuster free agent deal with the Oakland Raiders in 2008. After a midseason fire-sale, Hall came home to the Redskins and had four and-a-half seasons in the burgundy and gold.
At the end of this season, he will have spent exactly half of his 11-year career in the Nation’s Capital.
“I wanted to make it a point to come back here so I can say that I was a Redskin for the majority of my career,” he said. “Hopefully, I can finish my career here.”
In deciding to come back to Washington, Hall recommitted himself this offseason, training twice daily with teammates and setting aside extra time to train with Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green for the first time.
The two had met years ago and discussed training together, but it wasn’t until this offseason that Hall finally made it happen.
“It was huge for me,” he said. “I spent my offseason in Atlanta so it kind of made it hard. I would end up coming from two-a-day practices with the Redskins and then working out with him, basically doing three-a-days sometimes.
“It was brutal and he would see the pain in my face on some drills. It was something I felt like I had to do—I owed it to him to get out there and work with him. When you meet people like that and forge friendships like that it’s real genuine and it’s true.”
When Hall was drafted to Atlanta, comparisons to Falcons great Deion Sanders were understandable. But Hall had another hero in mind.
“Me and Darrell [Green] are great friends. I look up to him and he’s like a father figure to me too,” Hall explained. “It’s funny; you seldom think certain people are going to be the ones that are going to influence you.
“You couldn’t tell me 10 years ago that I would have a chance to meet one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time and actually wear one of the same uniforms he wore. It’s definitely a real honor.”
Green’s offseason work with Green, the Redskins strength and conditioning staff and his time spent in the film room have set him up with one of his best seasons on record and firmly in the Pro Bowl discussion.
“So many times last year we tried so hard to be around the ball, whether it was nickel, safety or corner that we ended up actually taking me away from the ball,” he said. “Teams are going to go at their best receiver. While they’re throwing at their guy, I get a chance to get my hands on some balls and get an opportunity to make some plays.
“As a cornerback in this league, that’s all you can ask for.”
Through 11 games, Hall has 75 tackle, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, one recovery, 11 passes defensed and three defensive touchdowns.
Even in situations where he hasn’t been around the ball, his impact has been felt with the development of rookie corner
“It’s fun. It’s fun to see the new generation, the new crop of guys come in this league,” he said. “He wants to learn and I’m out here trying to coach him up and he’s listening.
“He’s one of the rare kids that actually gets it. If he keeps listening to guys like myself and the guys in that room, he’s definitely going to be a heck of a player in this league for a long time.”
This past preseason, while nursing an injury that kept him sidelined, Hall was an active teammate on the sideline, directing teammates and offering real-time feedback.
He said he still has valuable seasons left in the tank, but coaching could be a possibility when he decides to hang up his cleats for good.
“[Defensive backs coach] Raheem Morris always talks about that,” he said with a laugh. “It’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility. It’s not something that I am focused on or thinking about doing now but anything can happen.
“I enjoy being around the game of football, I don’t think that will change. I definitely want to do something along the lines of football, whether it’s coaching, broadcasting, some front office stuff I really haven’t figured it out yet. Definitely be around the game that I love.”
Amerson brings a familiar storyline to Hall and the Redskins: a ball-hawking cornerback who comes into the league talented and hungry.
“I was a guy that could cover you, catch the ball; a playmaker,” he said. “Early in my career, I was definitely a guy that wore his emotions on his sleeve. I was a young guy in this league; I don’t think people really realized that. I came in the league at 20 years old, made my first Pro Bowl at 21, just had a lot of fame and success come so easy, so early.
“Obviously I’m a very passionate guy, but I’ve been able to tone that down over the last couple of years. To be able to keep it going and keep building on it, it has been a maturity thing. It has just been growing, growing pains whether right or wrong, they’ve all molded and kind of guided me to where I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Looking ahead, Hall is inspired by players that he entered the league with that are still finding success on the other side of 30.
With regards to his own health and future, Hall knows he still has a lot left to give.
“I’ve been in this league a long time, 10 years now,” he said. “To see guys like Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey and Ronde Barber playing as long as they have, I pride myself on being a pretty durable guy.
“From a health standpoint, I’ve been healthy my whole career. I’ve never been a guy that has had injuries missed seasons and things like that. I feel like I could be one of those guys that have played 13- 14 years and maybe move to free safety.
“I got a lot left in the tank. I still feel good, I still want to play this game, I still have fun playing it and I still feel I can do it at a high level. I just want people to say that I played the game the right way.”
But most of that talk is still years away and Hall said that he and his teammates are focused on the here and now. Sunday, Hall is ready to line up against two more elite receivers, much the same as he has all season long.
“At the end of the day it is you vs. their guy. You got to want those matchups. You’ve got to prove a lot of things and you’ve got to win,” he explained. “I relish the opportunity to get out there against some of these guys. The receivers vs. defensive backs is some of the best football you can find on TV.
“I look forward to going against the Giants. I’m going to get Victor Cruz some, I’m going to get Hakeem Nicks some. Eli Manning, I know he’s going to come bring it and my group is going to come bring it too.
“I know their team has been struggling but they’re kind of on a roll now. These are two teams I think everybody thought would be the two teams battling it out for the division. I think the mindset is still there; they’re going to want to beat us up, we’re going to want to beat those guys up.”
It is also another opportunity for Hall to exact his season-long vendetta against every team that passed on him as a free agent this offseason.
“You’re kind of trying to prove everybody wrong for whoever didn’t take a chance on you,” he said. “I’ve been to the Pro Bowl a couple of times and to get back there again would be a huge honor, especially coming off a year where you’re on a one year deal.
“A Pro Bowl berth would be great to end this season the right way and kickoff next season.”