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Times-Dispatch:Off on right foot


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http://www.timesdispatch.com/sports/MGB1QOG9JJD.html

Off on right foot

In car wreck of camp, Skins call Hall for toe

BY PAUL WOODY

TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Aug 19, 2003

ASHBURN Every day, the trainers for the Washington Redskins check on the players' health.

They check on the knees of defensive end Regan Upshaw and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. They look at the elbow of running back Ladell Betts and the Achilles tendon of guard Tre' Johnson.

And they check kicker John Hall for a pulse.

Hall is low-key and not easily perturbed, and those are good traits for a kicker in the NFL.

"I don't get too worried or caught up in a miss or a make," Hall said. "I take what I need to from the miss and from the make and move on. It's something you just develop."

The Redskins have seen their share of missed field goal attempts in the past four years. And the general Keystone Kops kicking game last season spurred coach Steve Spurrier and owner Dan Snyder to get serious about a kicker for this season.

So, Hall was offered a five-year, $7.1 million contract, including a $1.6 million signing bonus to leave the New York Jets for the Redskins.

That's not a bad contract for a kicker by any measure. It's especially good for one whose career field goal percentage is 73.7 and who missed two extra-point attempts last season.

"He's going to miss some. He's going to make more," said special-teams coach Mike Stock. "He doesn't get discouraged easily. He doesn't ride the miss. He's going to ride the make. And if he misses, it's going to spur him on to do better the next time. He doesn't get down like some guys do.

"He's not weak-hearted or weak-minded. If he goes into that S word [slump], it will bother him a little bit, but he's not going to let anyone else know about it."

When Hall finished at Wisconsin, there were questions about whether he could make it in the NFL. The doubts were not about his leg strength. Hall was the Badgers' kickoff man and handled their long field goal attempts. The concern was how he would handle short to mid-range kicks.

"No one knew if I could be consistent," Hall said.

The Jets saw his potential, though, and did something to ensure Hall would reach it. After they signed Hall to a rookie free agent contract, they hired Matt Bahr to work with him. Bahr was a successful kicker in the NFL, especially noted for his accuracy on short to mid-range kicks.

"He helped me quite a bit," Hall said. "He taught me how to practice effectively and to develop a routine every day. When you do that, it becomes second nature. That's how you build consistency."

Hall has been the model of consistency the past two seasons, making 24 of 31 (77.4 percent) in 2001 and 2002. He has kicked six game-winning field goals, including a 53-yarder against Oakland in January 2002 to put the Jets in the playoffs.

Hall does not shy away from pressure and is not easily intimidated. He made that clear the first time he met Redskins outside linebacker LaVar Arrington.

"Story," Stock said. "LaVar met him and said, 'Hey kicker, my name is LaVar Arrington.' John said, 'My name is John Hall.' LaVar said, 'OK, kicker,' and started to walk away. John said, 'OK, Lamar.' LaVar turned around and said, 'No, no. I said LaVar.' Hall stood there smiling, and LaVar said, 'Oh, I get it.'

"He's his own man. He's not afraid to talk to anybody, and he's not afraid to be a representative of his team as a kicker. He'll play like a linebacker down the field if you ask him."

The Redskins aren't likely to ask him. They do plan to ask him to win a few games for them, though, after they check for his pulse, of course.

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