WASHINGTON — Will losing captain DeAngelo Hall haunt the Washington Redskins?
Hall is lost for the second time in three years after suffering a torn ACL in Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants. It’s more than a beleaguered defense missing its safety, though.
Hall is the heart and soul of this team. An unlikely midseason free agent pickup who stayed nine seasons. He was the last player from the Jim Zorn era who remained through Mike Shanahan’s regime and into Jay Gruden’s third season.
A team elder, Hall called a players meeting on Saturday to demand the team not leave New York 0-3. The Redskins have several vocal leaders, but Hall’s rose above the noise. He was a mentor of a young secondary that will now follow Josh Norman’s pregame speech that calls teammates “lions.”
Hall was a lion.
How many times was Hall involved in a fight on the field, the sidelines or with teammates? He was pure fire on the field in earlier years, capable of still sparking when needed in the latter times. Maybe fatherhood, especially six children, creates measured responses.
Hall came to love the game so much he even moved to safety last season. The aging 32-year-old’s legs were having trouble tracking receivers a decade younger. That Hall was the team’s best tackler made safety a natural move. He wanted another five years from the game. Instead, he gained three games.
And this may be it for Hall, though he’ll surely feel the pains of desire on those long rehab days. It takes a year to recover from ACL surgery, especially when not a youngster anymore. That means maybe being ready for the preseason at best.
But the Redskins will be rightfully skeptical of Hall returning. He only played three games in 2014 when tearing his Achilles tendon. Last year he saw only 11 games before getting hurt. Now it’s another 13 games lost.
The NFL is cruel. It forces nearly everyone to leave before they want to. For every Darrell Green that retires after 20 seasons, there are thousands gone before age 25.
Hall had a good run. After four seasons in Atlanta, he spent only a half season with Oakland before he was released. When the Raiders cut you after paying you $8 million for eight games, something is wrong. Yet, Hall proved a midseason steal for Washington and kept re-signing.
Hall was a playmaker with 43 career interceptions and 13 recovered fumbles leading to 10 touchdowns. The ball just seemed to find him. Maybe he wasn’t shutting down top receivers anymore, but the move to safety late last season showed there was still a spark in his play.
Now, the Redskins need to move on without their captain of six seasons, maybe for good. While Hall was perhaps underappreciated by fans, he was well valued on the team.
“From a leadership standpoint,” Gruden said, “D-Hall has done a lot for this organization, a lot for this team. He’s going to be missed.”
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.