ASHBURN — Redskins Park has been DeAngelo Hall’s football home for almost a decade now. But as Hall packed his gear on Monday at the conclusion of another injury-shortened year, he acknowledged that his time in Washington might be coming to an end.
Once a shutdown cornerback, now a team captain and a safety, the 33-year-old tore his left Achilles tendon twice in 2014 and missed most of this season with an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee. Hall has another year left on his contract, but he understands injury and age are easy reasons for a team to move on.
“This game beats you up. It chews you up and spits you out,” Hall said. “That’s kind of part of it. As frustrating as [the ACL tear] was, it wasn’t as bad as my Achilles. I have a little bit of positive vibes just knowing that it’s not that bad. I’m going to rehab like hell and get back out there. If they want me, they want me. If not, we’ll see.”
Hall was injured in Week 3 against the New York Giants. Ironically, it was also Week 3 in 2014 that he tore his Achilles tendon the first time in a game at Philadelphia. He joked Monday that even if the Redskins bring him back he’ll demand to sit out the third game of 2017.
And make no mistake: That desire to play is still there. Hall struggled at times adjusting to safety in the middle of 2015 and he was primarily playing strong safety early this season. But his knee rehabilitation is on schedule and nowhere near as arduous as the comeback from the Achilles tears. Hall famously slipped in his kitchen at his offseason home in Atlanta after the first surgery and tore the Achilles a second time.
“There’s still a lot of plays out there I can make and ultimately I want to try to help this team win games,” Hall said. “For as far as it feels like we are away, it feels like we are just that much closer, too. We’ll see. But, yeah, I’m definitely trying to get back out there and play. I feel like I can help us win games.”
Hall was part of a rash of team leaders and captains felled by injuries in 2016. Tight end Niles Paul, the special teams captain, hurt his shoulder in Week 8 and was gone. Defensive tackle Kedric Golston, the longest-tenured Washington player dating to 2006, tore his hamstring in Week 2. Offensive captain Trent Williams, a five-time Pro Bowler, was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Late in the season Hall was seen around the locker room more often, trying to provide a veteran presence to a team fighting for a playoff spot. He was even in the defensive huddle in the tunnel leading to the field before the Dec. 19 Monday Night Football game against Carolina at FedEx Field.
Hall had 23 interceptions from his trade to the Redskins in the middle of the 2008 season through 2013. There was the memorable day he had four interceptions in one game against Chicago. He was often brutally honest about his own play and that of his teammates. If you wanted straight talk from a player, Hall and longtime teammate Santana Moss were as good as it got for reporters.
But Hall is a target off the field now. He signed a four-year, $17 million contract with Washington before the 2014 season. His base salary in 2017 will be $4.25 million and with a signing bonus added in his salary-cap hit is $5.062 million. The Redskins would have $812,500 of dead money on the cap if they cut Hall. The savings? $4.25 million. If money gets tight they could go younger at safety and use that cash for upgrades elsewhere. But would Hall be willing to renegotiate with Washington for a lower cap hit?
“Yeah I think so because I’m not here trying to rob nobody and just keep making the same thing,” Hall said. “If I show that I can be healthy and play 16 weeks then maybe we incentivize it and do something like that.”
Hall went more in depth on that scenario: “That’s something me and my agent kind of talked about because I kind of expressed the same concerns to him. Like ‘Man, I just feel like I’m stealing money, man. I signed that deal four years ago and been hurt every year since then.’ I want to ultimately do what’s best for this team as well, man. I understand it takes some sacrifice and give and take to be able to put the right pieces out there on the field. That’s everybody collectively trying to understand that it’s not just about the money. Yeah, you’re getting some money, but we’ve got to make sure we pay other guys, too, to be able to put the best team out there on the football field. We definitely need some help — as you can see.”
But all of that depends on if the Redskins want him back and Hall isn’t sure where they stand yet even after cursory talks with his agent. Initial signs are promising, but he’s been around too long to take management at its word. Priorities change fast in the NFL. One thing Hall is positive about — he won’t be rehabbing from any more major injuries. One more and his career is over whether that’s in Washington or elsewhere next season.
For a player who says he went 10 years without so much as an ankle sprain, missing 31 games in three years thanks to the Achilles and ACL injuries plus a bout with turf toe have taken a mental toll.
“My body can take it as many as I allow it to take from a recovery standpoint,” Hall said. “But If I get hurt again, I’m done. I’m tired of it. Anybody can push themselves to keep doing something over and over again. it’s frustrating because to not be hurt for so long and then to kind of just compound them back-to-back-to-back it’s been kind of hard.”
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