Leon Hall is encouraged by his first healthy offseason in years..
Cornerback Leon Hall is now one of the elders. Only Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko (Whitworth beat Peko by two rounds in the 2006 draft) have been a Bengal longer than the club's 2007 first-round draft pick.
He has seen two AFC North titles, started on five playoff teams, and been on two four-win teams. If anyone can get a feel for a Bengals season, it is Hall.
"It's a big offseason, not only for me but for the team," Hall said after Monday's workout. "Year after year it's a big offseason but for whatever reason this year seems a little bit bigger."
Maybe it's because Hall can feel the calendar advancing. Not just for him (he turns 31 in December), but he's one of 11 starters and regulars heading into the last year of their contracts and maybe he can hear that proverbial, obligatory, and cliché-riddled window closing. He doesn't sense desperation. But he feels there is a snap in the air.
"I don't like that word desperation. Every guy is different," he said. "I think their approach is they are going to work hard, play well, next season maybe they are here maybe they are not. But they will be somewhere assuming they play well this season.
"Hard to explain," Hall said. "It could be there's a lot of guys on our team in their last year and everybody knows not everybody is going to come back and we feel like we do have a championship team so you put those both together you almost feel like this year isn't make or break but is one of the bigger offseason and upcoming seasons we've had for a while."
Hall is coming off what he'll tell you and what everybody knows is a disappointing season symbolized by rookie Steelers wider receiver Martavis Bryant doing what nobody ever did against Hall when he ran by him for a killing 94-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of a Paul Brown Stadium loss.
But he's also talented, proud, and resolute, and he's banking on his first normal spring ball in a few years to get him back on track. Last year he was rehabbing from his second Achilles tear in three years and another offseason was lost to a broken thumb.
He knows there is no deal yet in 2016, but first things first. He's got 2015 on the mind.
"I don't think much about it unless somebody else brings it up. My wife brings it up," Hall said with a smile. "The way I look at it is I'm kind of approaching it like a regular offseason where I work hard get physically to where I want to be, OTAs get the mental part down then going into the season healthy, staying healthy and playing well. My approach is more of day-by-day and worry about tomorrow tomorrow."
There are more than a few teams in the NFL that would have approached Hall about a pay cut or (hello New England) dealt him on Draft Day, or cut him. Scheduled to make $7.7 million this season for a salary cap hit of $9.6 million, his hit is second most on the team behind A.J. Green's $10.1 million. The Bengals don't usually do those things. Sign a big deal with them and you usually get all or most of the money. So Hall wasn't surprised he didn't get a call.
"That's a part of it," Hall said of the history. "I never tried to let a lot of the business stuff creep in my mind. At a certain point you need to, but at this point it isn't something that's a must. I kind of look forward to offseason training because it is different than the last three seasons."He says he feels like the most important wings of the building, management and coaches, have the faith in him.
"Just having a feel for the coaches regardless if I did well or didn't do well, they always had faith in me, so that's always comforting," Hall said. "Part of the deal on my side is essentially, prove them right, which is why I'm here. I think they (management) have faith in me. If they didn't, this interview might be going differently."