34-year-old DeAngelo Hall has witnessed a lot in his 14-year NFL career. But he’s never before experienced a situation quite like watching Redskins safety Su’a Cravens leave the team — amid questioning his own retirement — just days before the start of the regular season.
Cravens, 22, left his teammates behind to go sort out his issues — whatever those were — and the Redskins with few options of how to move forward. The organization chose to give Cravens the rest of the year off, utilizing the seldom used Reserve/Left Squad list, to think about his future.
Cravens applied for reinstatement and was granted it by the league this week, forcing all parties involved to revisit a situation which left plenty of questions. Hall, in an interview with 106.7 The Fan, says he’s declined all previous requests to speak on the topic, but discussed it candidly on Friday.
“I got asked to do a couple of interviews about Su’a and I politely declined a lot of them,” Hall said, “just because it’s such a sore subject and no one really knows who, what, where, when and why — you know what I mean? — with Su’a. I know myself personally, ever since his rookie year I had tried to reach out to him and talk to him, and he’s so guarded.”
“That’s not a bad thing,” he added. “I tell a lot of the young guys — a lot of the times when we do rookie skits, it’s not hazing, it’s to be more comfortable around the guys. You know what I mean? It’s almost like initiation. Everyone had to do it, from Joe Montana, to Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss — anybody who’s a great player in this league went through something to create that bond and brotherhood.
“The biggest thing I tell guys: If you can’t be yourself around us in this locker room — guys you’re gonna sweat, fight, bleed, cry with — who can you be yourself around? And so we really believe in that family atmosphere and that brotherhood, and so, when Su’a decided to walk away from football, it hurt us all. It hurt us all on a lot of different levels. On a level of, ‘Man, this kid can help us win games.’ On a level of, if this kid’s going through something, he needs to be around us, because we can be a support system for him.”
The uniqueness of the situation gives Hall pause. Everyone wants to know if Cravens will be accepted back into the Redskins locker room. This time a year ago, Cravens was adored by fans eager to see him improve upon his promising rookie season. Teammates saw a rising star in the linebacker/safety hybrid. Coaches believed they’d found a gem in the second-round pick out of USC.
“There’s not a lot of things in this league I haven’t seen in the time I’ve been around the game,” Hall said. “But this is one thing that no one I’ve been around or I’ve been in the locker room with has ever experienced, and so it’s all kind of new. So how he’s gonna be received and accepted, I don’t know. I know myself personally, how I would receive him — with open arms, because I don’t know the full extent of the story.
“And until everyone gets the full extent of the story, it’s kind of hard to make an opinion. We all can voice our opinions, but to really be right, you’ve got to have all the information, and no one really has all the information but Su’a. I don’t even think the organization has all the information.”
“Su’a’s a great kid,” he said. “I think he can definitely play in this league and I’m rooting for him. I’m rooting for him to go out there and make a lot of plays. It kind of sucks, because by him stepping away, he kind of opened the door for a kid like Montae Nicholson to come in and show people, man, he can play. D.J. Swearinger has obviously cemented himself and his defense as a key leader and a key player, and so his spot’s kind of locked up.”
What’s undeniable, Hall says, is that Cravens — if he is to return — will absolutely have to rebuild the trust he fractured with teammates.
“I definitely think there’s room for Su’a on this roster, but he has to prove to the guys in that locker room that he’s here for the right reasons, you know what I mean, and he wants to fight with them and he wants to go to battle,” Hall said. “Guys have to believe he’s gonna be able to be counted on, and I think this organization has to believe that, because there’s nothing worse than having a guy that you have bled with and fought with and trained with, and when it’s time to go to battle, they walk away. That’s a tough thing for a lot of guys in this locker room to just look past.”
Hall concluded: “He has to just go in that locker room, be himself and prove to these guys that he wants to be here, and he wants to work hard and battle with his brothers.”