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WP: Redskins' Hall Is Big Deal


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Redskins' Hall Is Big Deal

Built Like Linebacker, Kicker May Be Long-Awaited Answer

By Emily Badger

Washington Post Staff Writer

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25842-2003Aug6.html

John Hall doesn't look a thing like a kicker, with a 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame that's better suited for stuffing the running game. But that's why Redskins special teams coach Mike Stock is grinning.

"He looks like a linebacker!" Stock said excitedly. "And he's got the mentality of a linebacker. He's a tough-minded guy."

Stock has been eyeing the bulky kicker since Hall graduated from Wisconsin seven years ago and senses his arrival in Washington puts the Redskins on the verge of solving an eight-year-old problem.

Since 1995, Washington has gone through 10 place kickers, with five sharing the duties in 2000 alone. Last season Brett Conway, James Tuthill and Jose Cortez split the job.

But Hall has long-term plans here -- he signed a five-year deal worth $7.13 million in March -- and his numbers with the Jets suggest he'll have no trouble carrying the load by himself. In six years in New York, he converted 205 of 210 extra points and made 149 of 203 field goal attempts.

"He seems like the guy," long snapper Ethan Albright said. "I don't think there's any question, just watching the way he approaches his practice routine, his work habits."

Hall knows high expectations await him. He's been apprised of the flailing tradition of recent Redskins kickers, and he's heard the horror stories -- such as when Tuthill slipped and missed a potentially game-winning 42-yard field goal with less than three minutes to play against the Giants last season.

Or when backup quarterback Danny Wuerffel had to take a kickoff because no one else was available to do it.

"It's been brought to my attention quite a bit," Hall said. "But it's all just [nonsense] to me, all the talk-talk-talk-talk-talk. It doesn't matter. I don't care about all that. I'm just here to do my job. I'm not a hero."

Stock and the rest of the Redskins staff made a convincing pitch to bring Hall here. He didn't have to follow anyone else's act, and he could single-handedly be responsible for pushing the Redskins a few points per game closer to the playoffs.

"The reality was, we didn't have a guy," Stock said. "We felt like we could be a contender -- should have been a contender last year. We were that close, and some of it had to do with the inefficiency in the kicking and punting situation."

Hall said he hasn't had a hard time adjusting to the Redskins. The names are new, but the job stays the same, he said, and for the most part the coaching staff has left him in peace as he works out on the far practice field at Redskins Park, attracting few onlookers.

"Just meeting everybody is the learning part for me," Hall said. The coaches "don't really know a lot about kickers and technique, so basically, they just let me do my thing and trust that I'm not going to screw around."

Stock does run a few drills. In one he intentionally interrupts practice -- calling "time out!" -- just as Hall is pacing out his approach to the ball. Stock is icing him, just as an opposing coach would do in a tight game.

Stock also likes to set up scenarios: There are 15 seconds on the clock, no timeouts, and the Redskins desperately need a field goal. Then he pulls out his stopwatch.

Occasionally, Hall will even practice throwing the ball, preparing for trick or busted plays.

Hall says he doesn't anticipate many of the latter.

"I've got a great snapper, and the holder [punter Bryan Barker] I've got is really good," he said, "so if something goes wrong, it's my fault, because those guys are pretty much money."

What Stock and the rest of the special teams unit has found is that Hall is unflappable.

"I've held for kickers that are nervous, I've held for kickers who don't look forward to certain aspects of the game," Barker said. "But what I feel from John is that he'd love to go out and kick a game-winner every week."

Stock describes Hall the same way -- level-headed, not too flashy, unlikely to beat himself up over a missed field goal or brag too much about a long one (his personal best is 52 yards).

And then there's the added bonus of Hall's size.

"If somebody breaks free," Albright said, "he's likely to make the tackle as well."

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