CINCINNATI -- Medically, Leon Hall is back. Mentally, he believes he's there, too.
But his play? That's far from where he wants it at this stage.
"Too up and and down for my liking," the Cincinnati Bengals cornerback said. "Even if I don't have a bad game, there's just the film-study part of it where I look at it on my own, and it's not as technically sound as I would like it to be. So that, I'm not happy with."
What is it that has Hall playing so inconsistently? He doesn't know.
If it isn't his age -- he turns 30 next month -- his mind or his physical makeup following a season-ending Achilles tear last year that has long since been surgically repaired and rehabbed, then it's unclear why he seems to routinely be a step or two behind receivers he has covered, or a tick off when trying to either break up a pass or intercept it.
"With a little bump in the road, sometimes you have to go back and look at what you're doing wrong as opposed to wanting to look forward and think about the Saints or whatever team that week may be," Hall said.
This week, his mind has been focused on preparing for Sunday's afternoon road tilt with the Saints. But last weekend, with the Bengals off after their 24-3 loss last Thursday to Cleveland, he was reflecting. As he mentioned, he realized that technically, he has been just a hair off this season. Poor technique has "hurt" him, he said.
"Maybe it's on a good play or maybe it's not on a play, but even on good plays technique is sometimes an issue," Hall said. "It's something I've been trying to work on for weeks now. It's always little things that add up. But it will be corrected. We're a little more than halfway through the season and you'd like to have that tightened up by now."
He wouldn't specify just what was off, but it does seem clear that in eyeballing Hall's play this year, something doesn't look right.
Hall has 39 tackles and an interception in eight games. Despite not being much of a factor in coverage, his tackles are up. The 39 tie his 2010 total, and they are the most he has had in a single season since his 65 in 2010.
Aside from the raw statistics, the Bengals had grown accustomed to seeing him stick to opposing receivers like Velcro both on the outside boundary and in the slot as a nickel corner. Even on the play when he tore his Achilles last season, he was blanketing Detroit's Calvin Johnson on a fade route that quarterback Matthew Stafford had to overthrow because of the tight coverage.
This season, though, it has been common to see Hall trailing the receivers he's charged with covering. Then there was the dropped interception he had at Indianapolis in Week 7. Had he caught the errant first-half pass, he likely would have taken it all the way for a score that would have kept the Bengals well into the game early. Ultimately they lost in blowout fashion, 27-0.
Games like that one haven't only been frustrating for Hall, but they've been alarming for the entire defense. The unit currently ranks 30th, less than a year after it was No. 3.
"It's tough always dealing with ups and downs, but you have to realize it could be worse," Hall said. "We're not dead in the water and we have a bunch of games left to make it right."
Sound advice for a veteran tired of wracking his brain over why his play isn't what it used to be.