Ex-Hokie had been playing with first unit

ATLANTA -- Cornerback DeAngelo Hall, expected to be the cornerstone of a revamped Falcons secondary, will miss 6 to 10 weeks with a fractured hip sustained in Saturday's preseason victory over the Bengals.

The loss of Hall, who might miss the entire first half of the season, is a significant one for an Atlanta secondary that statistically ranked as the NFL's worst in 2003. The team seems confident that Hall can return far quicker than anticipated, but the former Virginia Tech player was to have provided a big-play mentality to the defense, and any absence from the field will be difficult for the Falcons.

Rookie coach Jim Mora, who used the term "athletic arrogance" to refer to Hall's rare skills set, had elevated the young cornerback to the first unit even before camp started. Not even a weeklong holdout, which culminated in a $25 million contract that included the largest signing bonus in club history, could deter Hall from running with the starters on the first day he reported.

Hall suffered what is technically known as a posterior lip acetabular, a slight fracture to the left hip, early in Saturday night's game.

Hall appears to have been injured after batting down a
first-quarter pass intended for Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson. Though he remained in the game for the next four series, Hall told
trainer Ron Medlin that he was in pain.

"On that first deep ball when I was pressed up on about a
14-yard fade route, I just kind of came down on it wrong," Hall
told reporters after the game. "Hopefully, I'll be all right."

The original prognosis was that the injury was not serious and that Hall might miss this week's preseason finale but likely would be ready for the Sept. 12 opener at San Francisco. However, the Falcons' medical staff performed an ambitious battery of tests and sent Hall to Nashville-based hip specialist Dr. J.W. Thomas Bird on Tuesday for his opinion.

It was during Byrd's examination of Hall that the fracture was confirmed.

A source close to Hall told ESPN.com on Tuesday morning that the eighth player chosen in the draft might be sidelined for the first month of the year. Mora then announced the team's timetable after the Tuesday practice.

"By no means is it season-ending or anything like that," Mora said. "We'll get him back eventually, and we'll adjust as we go."

The Atlanta coaches likely will choose between veterans Tod McBride and Kevin Mathis to replace Hall at the left cornerback spot. Mathis will get the nod in Friday's game at Washington.

The right cornerback is Jason Webster, who was signed by Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent and was a starter for San Francisco when Mora was defensive coordinator there.

In three college seasons, Hall had 190 tackles, eight interceptions and 20 passes defensed. There was also a chance he would have returned punts for the Falcons, and some pundits had tabbed him -- given the immediate impact he was to have had on the Atlanta defense -- as a potential rookie of the year candidate. Hall was regarded in Atlanta as potentially the team's most electrifying defensive player since cornerback Deion Sanders, and he wore Sanders' former uniform No. 21.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.