Back in 2007, this matchup prompted perhaps the biggest meltdown in NFC South history. At the time, Hall was playing for the Atlanta Falcons. It was early in the disastrous tenure of Bobby Petrino and Hall’s behavior that day in the Georgia Dome might have been the first real outward sign of trouble.
Smith and Hall had once been friends, but Hall had made some previous comments that irritated the Carolina receivers. Both players talk a lot on the field and things really escalated late in the game.
With a little coaxing from Smith, Hall was called for three penalties that totaled 37 yards and helped the Panthers rally for a 27-20 win. Verbal shots flew back and forth in both locker rooms and Hall was benched the next week.
Hall and Smith kept their comments about one another toned down this week.
“I don’t think it was ever a level of dislike between us,” Hall said. “We’re two fierce competitors and we’re a lot alike that way. We want to get the best out of each other and try to beat the other one down. That’s probably not going to change. It’s going to be the same kind of scenario come Sunday. He’s going to come out and try to impose his will on me and I’m going to do likewise.”
Smith didn’t have much to say when asked about Hall this week.
“He’s a good opponent and he can play,” Smith said. “So you have to be ready to play.”
But don’t be surprised if things heat up again Sunday. Hall and Smith downplayed their rivalry leading into the game. But, once they’re on the field together, old emotions could surface.