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Monday, June 16, 2008
Updated: June 17, 10:49 AM ET
Hall brings swagger, leadership to Raiders

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- DeAngelo Hall stood in the office of Al Davis as his trade from the Falcons to the Raiders was being finalized.

Looking at a man he calls "a legend of the game" Hall felt his NFL life being pumped back into his beaten-down body.

DeAngelo Hall
DeAngelo Hall, who has 17 career interceptions in his four-year career signed a $72 million contract with the Raiders this offseason.
"Al Davis was telling me that the last few years here got away from him but that he was ready to win now, he is not in a rebuilding phase like they are in Atlanta," Hall said. "He wants to win now. That's the feeling around here. I want to be a part of this."

Hall said he plans to meet again with the Raiders' boss prior to the start of the season and said he will relay the boss' words to his teammates. Hall was brought to Oakland to lead, to take over a defense in the wake of the retirement of defensive tackle Warren Sapp, the soul of the unit. Recently, Oakland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said Hall brings "a swagger" to his unit.

Added Raiders' coach Lane Kiffin about the chance to deal for Hall, which the coach said wasn't originally in the team's offseason plans: "DeAngelo became available to us and it was a player that we feel is a two-time Pro Bowl player who has great potential, has reached that at times, made some dynamic plays on the field. So it was one of those things that, as we look at it, we just couldn't pass it up."

Hall is all aboard for this new chapter in his career, especially after the past two seasons in Atlanta. Things got so bad for Hall with the Falcons last year that he said if he were a 10-year veteran he might have retired because he was so drained. But at 24, Hall has plenty of time left in his career and he's glad to be with the Raiders, who traded for him in March.

"I'm not down anymore," Hall said. "I'm back to my old self. Everything tastes sweet again. I'm ready to go for it with this team."

The Raiders brought in Hall, widely considered a top cornerback in the league, to re-energize a worn-down defense. The move could recharge him as well. Hall's unhappiness in Atlanta was well documented. Hall was a loud critic of coach Bobby Petrino last season and still refers to him as "the worst coach I've ever been around."

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Even though Petrino left the organization suddenly to jump to the University of Arkansas, Hall remained hopeful of leaving Atlanta. After discussions with several teams, the Falcons accepted a package of draft picks from Oakland in March. The Raiders then gave Hall a new seven-year, $72.19 million contract including more than $24 million in guaranteed money.

Hall, who is entering his fifth NFL season despite the fact that he won't turn 25 until November, was part of a staggering spending spree by Davis, who is clearly tired of hearing about his team's league-low 19 wins in the past five seasons. Hall joined fellow big-ticket players Tommy Kelly, Javon Walker and Gibril Wilson, all of whom signed lucrative deals this offseason. Kelly is the only Raiders holdover in the group.

Many believe Hall will be as vital as any of the big-money pickups because he joins Nnamdi Asomugha to form a formidable pair of cornerbacks.

This spring, Ryan didn't hesitate when asked if his cornerbacks were the best in the NFL. Of course, he said. He added the competition wasn't even close; his two corners are the best in the league, hands down.

Hall, always one for spouting bravado, was thrilled to hear his new boss' words.

"I think we are," said Hall, who said he believes he is the best cornerback in the NFL. "I don't think any group can touch Nnamdi and me. Dallas, with [Terence] Newman and [Pacman Jones], will be good. But Pacman is just coming back and he has a lot to prove. Denver [with Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly] are tough, but they are getting older. We're the best. We'll show that."

Hall, known as a tenacious cover man, said he knows a big part of his job is to be a vocal leader and to add that "swagger" to the Raiders' D. But he admits he hasn't yet found an opportunity to fully showcase his skills and personality. He said he has spent the majority of the OTA sessions and the recent minicamp just trying to blend into the locker room and learn the Raiders' defensive schemes.

"I really haven't showed everything I can be to this team yet," Hall said. "It's been so crazy, just trying to figure everything. It is coming. The Raiders will know why they picked me up soon. I'm going to work my hardest to help turn this thing around."

Just the way he and Davis envisioned it together in March.

Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com.