Leon Hall still targets training camp return

CINCINNATI -- Most times when Leon Hall walks through the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room these days, reporters are absent.

Wednesday was a rare exception.

As the cornerback and his booted right foot breezed through around midday after another weekday rehab assignment, he was stopped by members of the media who hadn't talked with him since before he tore his right Achilles during in a win over the Detroit Lions two months ago. He has been on the injured reserve since and remained mostly out of sight while undergoing his second major rehabilitation in three seasons.

Much like the last time he went through an Achilles injury, Hall is also targeting a complete return by training camp.

"That's how I look at it," Hall said. "It's the same injury but every injury's different. I'm kind of approaching this one the same way I approached the last one as far as we're just going to rehab every day, see what happens in six months or whatever."

Six months from now, Hall, who turned 29 on Monday, hopes to be back to running, cutting and jumping.

In the summer of 2012, about a month before the start of that year's training camp, Hall was finishing up the comeback from his first Achilles injury; a tear to the tendon on his left foot.

In the months that followed, he went on to have a strong 2012 season and was on pace to have an even better one in this, his seventh year in the NFL. Last season, he was credited with 38 tackles, while also intercepting two passes and breaking up a career-high eight more. This year, before the injury, he was on pace to have 48 tackles. That would have been his most since 2009. He also was on pace for a career-high 10 pass breakups.

With respect to this particular injury, the timing couldn't have been better from the Bengals' point of view. Hall made a relatively expedient return before training camp last summer. Since this year's injury came two weeks earlier on the season calendar than the last one did, he has even more time to get healthy this go round.

"That's true," Hall said. "My left is healed 100 percent, so I'm kind of looking at it basically with the same mindset I had on the first one."

Hall went down during Week 9 in 2011. This latest injury came in Week 7.

The day-by-day progression of Hall's recent rehab has gone similarly to the first one, he said.

"Sometimes with this one you kind of go as the tendon allows you to go," Hall said. "But for the most part, it's going to be the same number of weeks I had in a cast and the same amount of weeks in this boot and so on and so forth."

Asked to think back to the moment he tried to jump while covering the Lions' Calvin Johnson in goal-line territory, Hall said he knew right away what he had done to himself. He knew the reason he buckled and went down as the pass to Johnson fell incomplete. As he was helped back to the sideline and disgustedly sat on a bright orange Gatorade cooler, he knew his season was done.

"I did know, unfortunately," Hall said. "The feeling felt all too familiar.

"It was a lot going through my head. Anything from: I had a lot of family at the game, to 'Not again.' One of those deals."

It wasn't until Hall returned to Cincinnati that night that he realized the long march to recovery was about to commence. After having gone through that process once before, he knew what to expect next; not that it made dealing with the injury any easier.

"I kind of realized the process that it takes, which can be good and bad," Hall said. "It's good because I know what's happening, but then obviously bad because you realize you have to go through it all over again."

What has helped Hall get through the more difficult moments this rehabilitation process has brought? The fact that his teammates have kept winning. The Bengals, playing most of the latter half of the season without not only him but also Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, are 9-4 and have a commanding lead in the AFC North. With a high playoff seed in sight, Hall has comfort knowing they're continuing on without him.

"When you're winning, it's not as hard because you're happy and the guys you're around every day, that you are used to being around every day, are playing well," Hall said. "So that's good."