|Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images|
|In eight games in Oakland, DeAngelo Hall was beaten 40 times for 552 yards on 66 passes thrown his way.|
Two years removed from his second Pro Bowl, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said he doesn't think his release from the Oakland Raiders eight games into the season has damaged his reputation as a good player or, he hopes, as a person.
"I don't think so," Hall said Wednesday, hours after he was officially released by the Raiders. "As bad as people may think I'm playing, I'm not playing all that bad. I've got about 50 tackles (48), (13) pass breakups, three picks -- one off the league lead -- and I've dropped a lot. I'm feeling good. I think if I get in a scheme that fits me, that will benefit me.
"I want the world to know that this didn't happen because I was a dirt bag and messing around. A lot of people were making me out to be a (bad person). It is what it is, a business decision. (Team owner) Al Davis assured me that it had nothing to do with me, the person. It was a financial thing."
Hall said Davis came to him Monday, a day after the Raiders were dealt a 24-0 loss by the Atlanta Falcons, and told him he was upset things were not going the way he wanted. A purge of high-salaried players was in the works and Hall, who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract after being acquired in an trade for a second-round pick last spring, was first on the list. Though the Raiders had already paid Hall $8 million, they weren't going to pick up the remaining $16 million in injury-guaranteed bonuses.
Hall declined to void the injury insurance in his contract, which stipulated that if he got hurt before the end of the season, the Raiders would have to pay him the additional $16 million. His refusal to waive the clause expedited his midseason release.
"This is a blessing," Hall said. "I have learned it's not all about the money. I've learned now it's more about the team. Ain't all money good money. I took the bait. I went for the money and I didn't research the situation. But I don't think I would trade this for the world. Just to meet Al Davis, to get to pick his brain, to know the kind of person he is and the impression he had on football is good for me to say that I know him."
Hall can be claimed on waivers beginning Thursday afternoon. He figures he'll probably clear the process and become a free agent, able to sign with any team. He won't rush to find a suitor. Hall planned to fly with his family from Oakland to his offseason home in suburban Atlanta on Wednesday night and take a few days to reassess what has happened in a span of a few months, exiled (but handsomely paid) from arguably the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL.
He did not say he wanted to necessarily play for a playoff contender. He would prefer to play for a team where the scheme and his role in that scheme were the best possible fit. That team being a contender would be a bonus. Hall said he isn't seeking a multi-year contract, although if one is offered, he would consider it.
He might opt to be a half-season fill-in, a role typically associated with street free agents or guys coming back from injury, not for someone who, in 2004, was the eighth overall draft choice and projected to be one of the NFL's best cornerbacks for years.
Though Hall wouldn't specify any team he'd like to play for, saying no to Dallas -- where his idol and close friend, Deion Sanders, played -- would be nearly impossible, he said. However, the Cowboys might be reluctant to add another dynamic personality to the mix, even with the tenuous future of suspended cornerback Adam Jones.
Indianapolis could use help at cornerback, and coach Tony Dungy might be just what Hall needs. The Redskins, Jaguars and Giants showed interest in the offseason but who knows if their feelings are the same after watching Hall get targeted routinely by Oakland's weekly opposition.
Hall described his current stat of unemployment "a better scenario" than playing in Oakland. That's not the first time an ex-Raider has said that.
Still, this latest development continues a downward trend for Hall, who didn't think things could get any worse than what he went through last season with the Falcons.
His good friend Michael Vick was imprisoned on dog-fighting charges. He openly clashed with coach Bobby Petrino; Hall lost his composure in a game with the Carolina Panthers that cost the Falcons a victory and Hall $100,000 in team fines. After the season, he criticized new management for not signing him to a long-term deal, despite him having a year left on his contract.
The last and final move assured his way out of town and allowed the Falcons to acquire the ammunition (second-round draft pick) to trade into the first round to acquire left tackle Sam Baker, who showed tremendous promise as the starter before back surgery last week sidelined him. In addition, Atlanta, using young, unheralded cornerbacks, is doing quite well without Hall.
The Raiders figure, to some degree, they can position themselves to do the same now that Hall's future money is back on their books.
Hall said Davis told him the Raiders are about to get rid of other players to clear money in order to acquire better linemen on both sides of the ball and address other areas of need -- like locking up Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
"When I came here, I knew they needed those things then," Hall said. "I knew I wasn't the answer, but when they shove $70 million in your face, you get hypnotized."
The hypnosis has turned into reality, and though Hall is $8 million richer and added a beautiful home in the Bay Area to his collection of property, he now has to find out what really matters -- and if he still does.