After four INTs, Redskins' Hall speaks his mind -- as always

ASHBURN, Va. -- DeAngelo Hall wears his heart on his sleeve. It's just the way he is.

That's not always a good thing. A defining moment in his career remains his sideline shouting match with Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino in 2007.

There also was the time earlier this year when Hall, frustrated over a loss in which the Washington Redskins allowed 30 points, declared: "This is my defense," then said he would start ignoring the coaches' wishes.

Then, last week, Hall and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett had a 20-minute discussion-debate about schemes and coverages during a team meeting. Those are two type-A personalities, and the exchange was intense enough that word leaked.

So what happened? Hall went out and tied an NFL single-game record, intercepting four passes Sunday in the Redskins' 17-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. Included in the haul was a one-handed grab returned 92 yards for a touchdown. The Pro Football Hall of Fame asked for Hall's No. 23 jersey, and he was selected Wednesday as the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week.

"I was always brought up to definitely speak your mind and speak how you feel," Hall said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But in a respectful manner. In the past, I have kind of let it get the best of me. I think a lot of people remember the Petrino incident on the sideline during that game, and me, obviously, being pretty vocal in the media about things I didn't like and things I like.

"It definitely gets me into trouble sometimes, but it's how I was raised. It's me. With me, you never have to question if I'm a guy who's talking about you behind your back. I'm going to come up to you and tell you how I feel about it."

Hall's career has been as volatile as his words. A No. 8 overall pick from Virginia Tech by the Falcons in 2004, he made two Pro Bowls before the infamous Petrino meltdown. He was traded the following season to the Oakland Raiders and lasted just eight games before he was cut. He finished the year with the Redskins, who believed he meshed well enough to reward him with a six-year, $54 million contract.

That's shutdown money, but Hall is more of a playmaker with inconsistent cover skills. The rap on the Redskins' starting cornerbacks is that Carlos Rogers can cover but not catch, and Hall can catch but not cover.

Hall has had an NFL-high 42 passes caught against him this season, according to STATS. While such a statistic is open to interpretation -- a 2-yard gain on a hitch counts the same as a 50-yard touchdown -- coaches concede Hall has had an up-and-down season for a defense ranked 31st in the NFL, partly because of back trouble that was more serious than he had been letting on.

"A little bit of back spasms, some soreness," said Hall, who's also on pace to more than double his career high in tackles. "Anybody who's had back trouble knows when that back goes out, you feel like you're about to die. It was definitely a little rough, but I was just trying to push through it. I've been in a lot of collisions on the field."

But Hall compensates for any shortcomings when he makes game-changing plays. He had a fumble return for the Redskins' only touchdown in the season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and his four picks against Jay Cutler saved the bacon for a Redskins offense that struggled against the Bears.

"One of the hardest things to coach -- as a matter of fact, cannot be coached -- is giving a guy confidence to pull the trigger when he sees something and then go make the play," defensive backs coach Bob Slowik said. "If somebody doesn't have that innate trigger, I can't coach it. ... He's not afraid to pull the trigger and go make the play."

Last week, Hall's back was feeling better, but he wasn't completely happy with the coverages that Haslett was calling. Haslett wanted more man-to-man, and Hall prefers zone because it's easier to read the quarterback and make interceptions. Their tit-for-tat discussion in the meeting room wasn't anything extraordinary, according to those who were there, but The Washington Post reported it. Haslett called Hall to talk about it the next day.

"We were like, 'Man, this is ridiculous,'" Hall said. "We're supposed to be a group, a family in this room. Me and (defensive captain) London Fletcher kind of took it upon ourselves to sit the whole defense down and say, 'Hey, guys, what we do is what we do. We're going to have to stick together.'

"We all kind of said we can make suggestions but can't really can't control what's been called [by the coaches]. No matter what's called, we've still got to go out there and execute it."

Turns out those coaches can be smart. Any guesses which defense Hall was playing when he got all four interceptions?

"We'd been harping on the coach: Put in some zones," Hall said. "Oddly enough, we get in man-to-man and get a whole bunch of turnovers."

Such candor is quite refreshing. One thing teammates love about Hall: They always know where he stands.

"You're going to know what's going on in that mind," defensive lineman Adam Carriker said. "He's not going to play any games. He's not going to lie to you. He's very straightforward. As a teammate, you really appreciate it."

And Hall is first to admit he's always learning how better to control his emotions -- and improve his game.

"It's still a work in progress, I am," Hall said. "I'm 26 years old, going into my seventh season, and I still feel like I can play this game at a high level. I had so much success early in my career that I kind of took it for granted. I took the work ethic, the film study and all that for granted, and just having coach [Mike] Shanahan in here and these new coaches and my teammates, they really stay on me, and we're all telling each other to strive for perfection and expect the best out of each other."

So, for a final bit of bravado, a question: DeAngelo, will you go to Haslett and lobby to cover Calvin Johnson when the Redskins visit the Detroit Lions this weekend?

Hall smiled a crafty smile.

"Probably will."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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