ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall understood the decision; he probably would have made the same move himself. But he's not yet sure about another decision: Whether to return for a 15th season or not. If he opts for retirement, Hall knows the final four games of his career might be spent on the bench.
After a tough outing against the New Orleans Saints in Week 11, the Redskins benched Hall. In the following two games he's played just one snap.
He knew what happened against the Saints. But Hall also knows he wasn't ready for what he had to do this season as he returned from a torn ACL. He said after his first game back, the Week 9 win in Seattle, his body was sore for two weeks. He played 75 snaps and earned praise for his performance.
Then he suffered a bone bruise a week later against Minnesota.
"I went to New Orleans not expecting to play, not even expecting to dress," Hall said.
But cornerback Quinton Dunbar got sick and didn't dress, opening a spot for Hall. Then, during the loss to the Saints, rookie Montae Nicholson suffered a concussion in the first half. Hall entered and struggled, unable to cover the tight end and allowing a touchdown when he vacated his area after a pump fake. He wasn't the only defender who made mistakes, especially late, but the Redskins had another option at safety. And the next week, with Nicholson still out for the New York Giants' game, coordinator Greg Manusky opted for Deshazor Everett next to D.J. Swearinger instead.
Hall, who says he likes to see the game from a front office perspective, was honest with himself.
"I played terrible," Hall said. "When Manusky came to me and said we're going to go with Ev, I said 'not a problem.' Would I have liked to go back out there and play and get some get-back, especially against a sorry-ass Giants team? Absolutely. But I understood the reason behind it. You take your lumps as a man. You get beat, you get beat.
"I could have bitched and complained like other guys, but I didn't. I care too much about the team in that aspect. Ev's played great. He's shown he deserves a chance to play. That's what makes the stinging and the pain a little less painful. It makes sitting bearable."
Hall said he was grateful for being able to play at Seattle, his first game since Week 3 of 2016. But he also said, "Should I have been the first name called to go play? Probably not."
He knew his legs and game weren't quite ready. And that's why Hall wonders about his future: Would he be different if he could prepare without having to rehab? Hall is in the final year of his contract and entered this season having missed 31 of the previous 48 games because of various leg injuries.
"Do I still love to play? Absolutely," Hall said. "Am I not as good as I think I am? Yeah, probably so at this point. As a 14-year vet, you kind of feel you don't need training camp. But I needed it because I hadn't played in so long. I needed to get my legs back. I needed to get a feel. I needed to see things. So I feel behind the eight ball and would love to see how my body responds to actually being able to train with the mindset of coming into a camp healthy and playing."
That doesn't mean he'll return. The Redskins wanted him back this season because they value his leadership; Hall spent most of the summer tutoring the other defensive backs while he recovered from the ACL. There's value in his wisdom. But to extend his career he knows he must show that value when it comes to making plays.
Hall, though, has talked about different options in the past, whether coaching or broadcasting or even a front office role.
"There are a couple different routes, but I'm excited to see what happens," Hall said. "When you graduate you're like, 'Man I'm excited to see what happens next.' That's the excitement I have right now. I'm excited to see what happens next. Am I gonna coach? Am I gonna do this? Am I gonna do that? Am I gonna keep playing? I'm just pumped up man. Yeah it stings [to sit] but when you watch a guy come up and kind of coach him up and feel that connection to him it doesn't sting as bad because I know that guy put the work in and he deserves the opportunity."
His goal this season, beyond helping the Redskins win, was a modest one: finish healthy.
"At the rate I'm going, I'm going to stay healthy," Hall said, laughing. "At this rate it doesn't seem like I'm going to play. For me it's just about finishing healthy and finishing the right way with guys, on a positive attitude and mindset. Regardless what happens after the last game, I'm going to have decisions to make."