Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Leon Hall (29) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium last season. He is recovering from a second torn Achilles tendon this offseason.
CINCINNATI — Leon Hall has been through this rehab thing before. He’s been through it with his Achilles before. This time he’s coming back from tearing his right Achilles. Two years ago it was his left Achilles.
If there is one characteristic that Hall has shown in his seven years of playing cornerback for the Bengals it’s resiliency. He once got beat for three touchdowns in a game against Cleveland in 2007, including a pair by former University of Michigan teammate Braylon Edwards. The next season Hall picked off three passes against the Browns.
It’s one of the traits that former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, now the head coach at Minnesota, most endeared about Hall. Defensive backs have to forget quickly. The game is coming at them too rapid-fire to enjoy the mini-victories or mope about the defeats that will happen play by play, game by game and season by season.
Hall was injured on Oct. 20 in a game at Detroit. He was covering Lions All-Pro Calvin Johnson. Hall knew his fate as soon as the injury had occurred. He knew all that would be coming next.
"It seems like so long ago but it was definitely an emotional day," said Hall on Monday at Paul Brown Stadium. "I’ve already been through it one time so I kind of knew how it felt and what it takes to get back from this type of injury. All of that stuff was going through my head. But now I really don’t even think about it. Just keep the past in the past. I’ve just been focused on trying to rehab this right."
Training camp is still nearly three months away from starting but Hall expects to be ready for the first day of practice, just as he was in 2012 after rehabbing the first injury away. A torn Achilles is one of the worst possible injuries for a defensive back. The position requires quick bursts, instincts to anticipate what’s coming and the ability to react when it’s happening.
Just as he’s seen receivers run certain patterns in certain situations over the years, Hall has seen this rehab process. Yet, it’s not necessarily the same this time around.
"It’s the same injury but you have to try to keep them separated," said Hall. "Just because I was doing something with my left foot doesn’t mean I have to be doing it with my right foot at a certain amount of time of the rehab. And vice versa. There is rehab I did two years ago, as far as exercises, that I haven’t done just because I really didn’t need to. The same thing with the right one. I’ve done new stuff with this one as opposed to things I didn’t do with my other one."
Hall’s health is one of the reasons the Bengals could be looking at selecting a defensive back during the first couple of days in this week’s NFL Draft. The overall age of the defensive backs is another. The secondary has played well the past couple of seasons but Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Reggie Nelson aren’t getting any younger. Dre Kirkpatrick was the No. 1 pick in 2012 and has shown flashes of that talent but the expectations for him to really take a leap in production are enormous. George Iloka solidified himself last season as the starting safety next to Nelson. Shawn Williams was a third-round pick last season and should make a greater push for playing time.
Hall was taken No. 1 by the Bengals in 2007, the 18th overall pick in the draft. He said he used to watch the draft for more than just to find out if the Bengals were bringing in any competition for his position but now it’s not a concern of his.
"I just liked to watch," said Hall. "Now, I don’t know, it’s just so long. It’s kind of like a spectacle. I’m kind of over it to be honest. I don’t really watch it anymore. It doesn’t matter if I watch it or not, they’ll bring in the same guy anyway.
"I try not to make things too difficult. If they bring in five corners, they’re going to bring in five corners and honestly we’re going to try to coach them up just like we’re going to coach the guys that are already here. So it’s not going to make any difference to me."