RICHMOND, Va. -- A newly shaved head takes a few years off Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall's appearance, but he's still among the team elders. The question is, will he become an elder statesman?
With linebacker London Fletcher's retirement, the Redskins need Hall to become the new vocal leader of a rebuilt defense. The 30-year old Hall is second only to Kedric Golston (2006) in team service after six seasons and is fourth overall in age.
Yet, it's not easy for a cornerback to be a leader. It's usually a lineman or linebacker, not a position known for playing one-on-one with receivers. Corners are more lone wolves than leaders of the pack.
Fortunately, Hall wasn't short on opinions as the Redskins opened training camp July 24. But he has usually worked within the secondary rather than the overall defense.
"It's going to be the first camp in a long time that I haven't had a guy like Fletch around, so definitely the onus is on me," Hall said. "Meeting with [coach] Jay [Gruden] this offseason, he kind of stressed that to me, and I embraced it. I felt like I was ready for it.
"I understand it's not about me. It's about this team, and I'm just trying to get everybody better. If I could have [cornerback] David Amerson or some of these other young guys step up and make plays, that's ultimately what I want to happen. I want those guys to eventually take over when I'm done, or I can't do it anymore."
Fortunately for Hall, he is coming off one of his better seasons and definitely an improvement from a lackluster 2012, when he was playing out of position. Hall scored twice off four interceptions, and, more importantly, was rarely beaten for touchdowns. An 11-year vet, Hall shows his age when talking more of team goals than personal ones.
"The goal is to always try to win football games," he said. "It's not about my individual success. It's about us trying to win games. You know, for me, it's about doing whatever the team is asking me to do. Mentally, I'm just in a place where I know I don't have a lot of football left, so I'm just trying to go out there and have as much fun as possible, lay it all on the line, not leave anything in the tank, so when I do walk away from this game, I feel good about it."
But then, Hall isn't conceding he's not still among the NFL's top corners, even after passing 30, when defenders lose a step.
"As a corner, if you don't feel like you're the best, you've got a problem right there," Hall said. "I never said I was the best. I would be a fool to think 11 years in, I'm the best in the game right now. I definitely think I'm pretty successful at doing what I do. Like I said, man, if you really watch film, let's go watch film and I put my film against any corner in the league, and we'll see what he does and we'll see what I do, and we can go from there. I definitely think that if you put me out there against a receiver, any one of them, I'll take my chances. I never said I was the best, but I definitely feel like I should be in the conversation.
"It's not about me saying I can do this or I can do that. At some point, I'm going to have to face Calvin [Johnson], I'm going to have to face Dez [Bryant] and all these other guys. I let my play speak for itself, but if you sit down and watch film and compare my numbers against those guys -- any corner -- I'll take myself in a heartbeat."
Hall also seems motivated by the fear of not being the best defender on his own team.
"Nobody wants to be the weak link in any business," he said. "[The secondary is] working even harder, because we don't want to be the ones that let everybody else down. You best believe myself, Ryan [Clark], Brandon [Meriweather], we're ready to roll. We understand we have got a lot of high-profile guys on that offensive side of the ball. We don't mind putting that hard hat on and going to work. That's what we are going to do. We are going to carry that lunch pail Virginia Tech-style."