Falcons' Hall eager to ``bring it'' on punt returns
By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
December 8, 2005
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- DeAngelo Hall's interception total indicates he has accomplished his goal of becoming a "shutdown corner" in the NFL.
But Hall wants to expand his reputation.
Hall's chance comes Monday night when he is expected to return punts for the Atlanta Falcons against New Orleans.
"Oh man, I'm real jacked up. I'm real excited," Hall said Thursday.
Hall is expected to fill in for 2004 Pro Bowl return specialist Allen Rossum, who injured a knee last week and is listed as questionable. Rossum didn't practice Thursday.
Hall has filled in for Rossum on punt returns before, but never for a full game. He has three returns for 54 yards -- 18 yards per return -- this season.
Hall, an accomplished return specialist at Virginia Tech, says he'll take lessons learned from Rossum.
"I think I've learned so much from Allen," Hall said. "I'm just ready to show how much he's taught me. I think I was a great returner in college, but I think I'm better now."
There was some talk of having Hall return punts in his 2004 rookie season while Rossum returned kickoffs.
"I kind of discouraged that because I wanted to put all my focus on being a shutdown corner in this league," Hall said. "I think I've reached that level. I'm still working on that, but I think I'm taking the right steps."
Hall ranks among the league leaders with five interceptions, including one in each of the Falcons' two previous Monday night appearances this season.
"Anytime it's Monday night football, I know I'm going to bring it," he said. "I know I'm going to bring it on prime time."
Hall is winning respect from other NFL players.
"He's doing his thing, man," said Saints receiver Joe Horn on Thursday. "He's got five picks. DeAngelo is playing at a Pro Bowl level. He's sitting at the top of the league with the best. I've got to respect that."
In Hall's last year at Virginia Tech, he had five punt returns for touchdowns, the second-best total in Big East history. His 839 yards on 56 punts was the third-best total in conference history.
Saints coach Jim Haslett says Hall should be a worthy replacement for Rossum.
"He's got great speed. He did it in college and was outstanding," said Haslett of Hall. "They're kind of the same guy. They like to return the ball to the side. They both have a good feel for it."
Falcons coach Jim Mora might rotate Hall and receiver Brian Finneran on punt returns. When the Falcons are fielding punts near the goal line or in other fair-catch situations, Finneran may get the nod. When there is more chance for a return, Hall is the probable choice.
Rossum was a 2004 Pro Bowl pick as a return specialist, and his absence also will be felt on defense, where he was the nickel back. Even so, Mora is eager to see what Hall can do with room to run.
"Every time he touches the ball it's kind of exciting," Mora said. "I get the feeling when he touches the ball he's got a chance to make a big play."
Hall said he would be comfortable maintaining at least a share of the return duties.
"I know a couple of our coaches kind of talked about having me back there in crucial situations, like Darrell Green did early in his career," Hall said. "I'm up for doing whatever this team asks me to do."