DeAngelo Hall on Alex Smith: “He’s dinking and dunking.”

Here is the transcript of this morning’s conference call with Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Q: Did you and Carlos Rogers get to be pretty close when you played together for the Redskins the last few years?

HALL: We hated each other, actually. But, no. I got a chance to definitely hang out with him, know him, learn to like him. Really didn’t know a lot about him before I got here. The kid can definitely play football, there’s no doubt about that.

Q: When he came here, he talked about what life was like in Washington. He said there was a lot of scrutiny all the time, and he felt like he was escaping from prison. Is it tough playing in Washington where you get so much scrutiny?

HALL: It’s tough playing anywhere when you’re not winning, be it Washington, be it Green Bay, be it Minnesota, Oakland. I was out there in the Bay so I know how you guys can be out there. It’s tough anywhere when you’re not winning. San Francisco is playing great football right now. He’s playing great football, so everything is going to be a lot better, a lot easier, a lot more fun. But he was a part of losing out here in Washington. We’re right now trying to right the ship, so to say. It’s definitely a lot more scrutiny, too.

Q: He was criticized heavily for his hands when he was with the Redskins – dropping interceptions. Was that something he talked about at the time that bothered him?

HALL: No, he never really talked about it. We tried to joke with him and talk with him and try to figure out what we can do to help him catch the ball. But it was never something where he would say, “Aw man, I wish they would leave me alone about dropping the ball,” and things like that. It’s amazing, because in practice he’ll go out there and pick off balls, and he’ll get in the games and for whatever reason it just wasn’t coming together. He’s always around the ball but just could never really get his hands on it, that’s out there in San Francisco he’s playing great football, because he’s been able to get the ball and get interceptions and score with them. That’s exciting for him and I’m proud watching him do it.

Q: Did he spend extra time after practices working on his hands?

HALL: Yeah, he did, we all did. We all did ball drills after practice, during practice, before practice. It was something out coaches always harped on was ball drills.

Q: Did you sense that Carlos Rogers was unhappy in Washington towards then end of his time there?

HALL: No, I don’t think so. When I got here after I got released from Oakland, it was a pretty crowded secondary. We had Shawn Springs. We had Fred Smoot, Carlos Rogers and myself – all first round, high draft picks. Playing time was kind of limited, so you made a mistake you got pulled out the game. It was no ifs, ands or buts about it. Nobody was special. Since then we’ve kind of weeded some guys out and over the last couple years it has been me and him. We’ve always tried to go out and try to make plays. I think it’s been compounded by the fact that we haven’t been winning and things haven’t been going picturesque, so to say.

Q: You guys started out hot but now you guys are struggling. Why is that?

HALL: We’ve just been playing different teams. Every week is a different challenge. San Francisco poses a different challenge than the Philadelphia Eagles or the Dallas Cowboys. It’s just the way the schedules were laid out. We got some easy games early and we’re starting to get into the meat of the games now. The National Football League is tough to go out and get wins week in and week out. We’re just looking forward to this opportunity.

Q: What kind of challenges do you face from the 49ers offense?

HALL: Just a very controlled passing game. Alex Smith is not losing the game. He’s showing that he can win football games, and I think everybody knew he had it in him, he just had to get coach the right way and I think Coach Harbaugh is doing a great job of coaching him the right way – being an ex-player, ex-quarterback he knows what it takes to go out there and lead teams to victory. He definitely has Alex Smith focused and doing his job and knowing his assignment. And on top of that, man, they’re just smashing guys. They’re running the ball great. Frank Gore. They’re bringing in change-of-pace backs. And their offensive line is a monster. They bring Isaac Sopoaga, some defensive guys in, and some extra tackles. They’re just running it down people’s throats. That’s something we’re definitely going to have to try to do – stop the run. We haven’t done a great job of it the last couple of weeks, so we definitely know that’s what they’re going to try to do to us.

Q: Do you think you’re going to get an opportunity, though? Alex Smith hasn’t thrown a lot of balls to defensive backs this season.

HALL: Yeah, he’s only thrown two interceptions, I think, from what the stats tell me. He doesn’t give you great opportunities. Like I said, It’s a very controlled passing game. He’s dinking and dunking. He’ll take a couple shots downfield when the opportunity presents itself, but for the most part it’s a controlled passing game. It’s a passing game that works off timing, works off of his reads – if he doesn’t see it he kind of pulls it down and he tries to extend the play. He’s done a great job of doing that. And like I said, that running game’s been so strong and so powerful as well as the defense and, I’m sure, the special teams. I haven’t really had a chance to watch that aspect of the game. But, I’m pretty sure you guys are putting it all together, and when you put it all together like that – offense, defense, special teams – it’s hard to key in on one particular thing. They’ll definitely keep you off balance running the ball with their little play action passing game and things like that. He’s definitely feeling comfortable out there. He looks comfortable, and those guys are making plays for him – the tight ends, the receivers, the backs. Everybody’s coming together.

Q: Are the tight ends something that’s unique to the 49ers?

HALL: Yeah, I think so. It’s kind of the New England effect. Any time you can keep your tight ends on the field and be able to throw the ball or run the ball, it’s special. It’s special when you have tight ends that run like receivers. We looked at 40 times today, looking at personnel, and the tight ends are faster than the starting receivers. That’s rare to find. Those guys are definitely gifted athletes, and when they get the ball in their hands, they’re special. We’re definitely going to have to key in on those guys.

Q: The amount of different guys the Niners run onto the field – is that unique?

HALL: I mean, extra tackles is extra tackles. There’s nothing really special about that. It’s more so a telling sign than it is an actual key for them. It’s more telling us, “Alright, they like to run it.” They’ve since thrown a couple passes with those guys, but as long as we play our coverages and keep our eyes on our assignments it shouldn’t be a problem. Other teams have done it in the past – brought in extra tackles, unbalanced offensive line, things like that. You’ve just got to be fundamentally sound. That’s what they want you to do – they want to do defend every single thing. That’s why they’ve been so good this season.

Q: How surprising was last week’s loss to the Bills for you?

HALL: It’s tough any time you go out there and you don’t put any points on the board. You play a great offense in Buffalo and it’s hard to contain those guys. There’s no doubt about it. It’s hard to contain those guys, and we tried our darndest to do it, but a couple plays here and there, and you look at the scoreboard and you’re behind. When you’re behind and you can’t put points on the board it’s hard to get back in the game.

Q: You said you looked up the 40 times of the 49ers tight ends. Is that something you did special for the 49ers?

HALL: It’s on every weekly scouting report. They have the year the guy came into the league, the 40 time, all that. It’s just a funny coincidence that the tight ends are faster than the receivers.

Q: What was the listed 40 time for Michael Crabtree? Is he a deep threat that you guys have got to worry about?

HALL: I don’t know if he’s a deep threat you’ve got to worry about but he’s definitely a guy who can catch the ball and can get downfield. I don’t think there’s any guys in this league playing receiver that can’t play or can’t run. They had Crabtree at 4.52. They had Vernon Davis at 4.37. I guess these are combine times or workout times or whatever. They had Walker at 4.5 flat. It was just an interesting fact. Kyle Wilson runs a 4.3 something. I think another guy was 4.4 something. It was just funny to see those guys times that fast.

Q: The 49ers have a guy named Aldon Smith who they think could win defensive rookie of the year. What about the guy in Washington, Ryan Kerrigan. Do you think he’s a candidate for that?

HALL: I hope so. He makes plays. There’s no doubt about it. He makes plays, he stays on the field every single play of the football game. He doesn’t take any plays off.  He’s tough in the run game, he good in the pass game. He’s going to be good. I don’t think he’s out here playing to try to win defensive rookie of the year – that’s kind of his mentality. He’s such a hard-nosed, grind-it-out type of player. He’s not like these new age guys who come in the league and all they want is stats, stats, stats. This guy is a real team guy. He’s definitely not trying to win it, but we definitely see flashes of him making a lot plays. A lot of those things come with winning games, so with us not winning game he probably doesn’t have a shot in hell. Tell your guy good luck. He’ll have a chance.

Q: The 49ers turnaround is similar to one you experienced on the 2004 Falcons. What the 49ers need to do to keep it going this season?

HALL: Just take it one game at a time. Savor the moment. Like I tell guys, we lost in the NFC championship game against Philly that year, and I was a rookie and had I known it was going to be this tough to get back to the playoffs – I felt like I played hard, but I damn sure would have been dragging myself off of that field and onto that bus had I know I wouldn’t be back since then. The biggest thing for those guys is to keep taking it one game at a time, keep savoring the moment, keep savoring that group of guys in that locker room because that group’s going to never be the same. You might bring a different free agent in, a guy, bam bam however it works out. That 53 or whatever guys you can have including practice squad, it’ll never be the same. Ed Donatell, your guys’ defensive backs coach, was actually our D coordinator in Atlanta, so I’m sure he’s sharing those same facts with those guys, too.

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