How fast is DeAngelo Hall?
"I hope nobody's faster," the second-year cornerback of the Atlanta Falcons said recently. "That's what I want everybody to think _ that I'm so dangerous that you can't believe all the things I can do out there."
Hall has no problem promoting his talents. He might be the youngest player on the 53-man roster, but his confidence fills the locker room.
Here are a few examples of what head coach Jim Mora meant, a couple of hours after the Falcons drafted Hall as the No. 8 overall pick, when he described the former Virginia Tech standout as having an "athletic arrogance" that any team would covet:
- A few fans who paid top dollar to fly on the team charter to Miami last month heard a 22-year-old multimillionaire who was apparently gifted at the art of self-promotion.
"Vote for your favorite cornerback in the Pro Bowl," Hall allegedly was purported to say to nobody in particular as he boarded the plane for the return flight. "I need your support."
It was notable, however, that Hall had recorded just two tackles in Atlanta's 17-10 victory over the Dolphins. Keion Carpenter, not Hall, picked off the pass that secured ended Miami's last offensive threat.
In reality, he never had a chance for an interception because Miami offensive coordinator Scott Linehan apparently instructed Gus Frerotte to forsake Hall's side of the secondary and look elsewhere for an open receiver;
- During one practice earlier this season, Hall wasted no time showing his disdain for the scout team's persistence in trying to make him work extra hard in coverage.
Mora never would say whether the coaching staff wanted to test Hall's mettle. It was clear, however, that Hall pushed the patience of secondary coach Brett Maxie by brashly ripping off his helmet after a long completion.
Maxie, who worked his way onto the New Orleans roster for Mora's father as an undrafted rookie free agent from Texas Southern in 1985, slammed down his clipboard inside the covered practice field.
Hall, who never looked at his position coach, looked ahead and muttered his disbelief. Several veteran teammates, when asked if such behavior causes problems in the locker room denied that Hall's cocky personality creates more problems than solutions.
"He's a little different," running back Warrick Dunn said. "There's enough guys around to keep him level-headed. He has to learn. It's only his second year, and expectations are already on him to be great right now;"
- In an interview on Thursday afternoon, Hall described himself as having essentially accomplished his goal to become a shutdown corner in the NFL.
Everything from this point forward, somebody might conclude, is gravy. Asked about the need Atlanta has Monday night for him to return punts in place of injured specialist Allen Rossum, Hall simply stated he only wanted to prove what the eighth-year veteran had taught him.
"I think I was a great returner in college," Hall said, "but I think I'm better now."
Asked about why the Falcons decided to use Rossum exclusively on punt returns when they had mentioned, not long after the draft, of having him share the role, Hall indicated that he made the final call.
"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."
What happened, however, was Mora and president-general manager Rich McKay never intended to expose the team's $13 million in guaranteed bonuses it committed in Hall by having him return punts.
"No, what you see with DeAngelo now and what we believed to be the case when we drafted him was a young man who could literally take away one side of the field in passing situations," McKay said. "Jim has always preferred the idea that DeAngelo could help us occasionally on returns. That's what you saw (in 2004)."
The chance against New Orleans Monday for Hall to help the Falcons end their two-game home losing streak gives Hall a major rush of adrenaline.
In fact, the scenario would play out even better if Hall scores his third career touchdown _ on either a punt or interception return _ and for the Falcons to erase those doubts that their playoff hopes are gone.
Picking off Brooks, actually, might be better, because it would give Hall his sixth interception and push him closer to leading the NFL in that high-profile category.
"If 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."