Hitting the Hallmarks

Leon Hall

Half of Leon Hall in February means there's a good chance there'll be a full Leon Hall in August.

Hall, Cincinnati's top cornerback and arguably the club's best defensive player, is "right in the thick" of his rehab and says he's hitting all the marks set up for him. That means he's already running lightly and jumping off boxes less than three months after surgery to repair his torn Achilles with the idea he'll miss the May and June workouts but be ready to take the first snap of training camp.

Thanks, in part, to some contraption that is more Neil Armstrong than Jack Armstrong. The "Alter G Treadmill" has magically whittled his 195 pounds to about a buck ten. Hall simply calls it "genius."

"That thing is amazing," Hall says. "It basically makes you lighter. It takes some of your body weight off. The tendon is weak. I can't just sprint with my full body weight. But if I can go on there and put 40 or 50 percent body weight or something, you can actually get the tendon used to running again and getting in condition without beating on it running on the football field. I think it's awesome."

Hall also said Wednesday he believes the Bengals have one of the more talented rosters in his six seasons and they have to figure out how to translate it into more wins. And with the departure of secondary coach Kevin Coyle, he says he's buoyed by the return of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Now that he's in the daily hand-to-hand combat with rehab guru Nick Cosgray, Hall feels better about his plight than he did even a month ago. Saddled with a walking boot and the universal fear of what Achilles tears can do to careers, Hall admits he's had some uncertainty. But now that he can move, he can move on.

Asked if he thinks he'll be as good as when he returns (and he was very good as one of the top corners in the game), Hall is just taking it exercise by exercise and believes his youth and modern medicine can do the rest to restore him. And the medical people always say after surgery on the knee or Achilles the patient is usually better the second year after the procedure.

"Early on I had some doubts. When you think of Achilles, it's a little scary. Especially if this were 10 to 15 years ago, I don't know if I'd be saying the same thing," Hall says. "As far as the technology and the knowledge of the tendon, I'm not really worried about it. I feel good where I am now as far as where he told me I should be. I'm kind of hitting all the marks. I try not to let those negatives creep into my mind. I think that definitely has an effect on your workouts. That's the last thing I need."

The best thing Hall has going for him besides himself is his age. He turned 27 two months ago and he's bringing the same intelligence and commitment to his rehab that he brought to the starting lineup five years ago as the 18th pick in the draft out of Michigan. With the 17th and 21st picks this April, the Bengals figure to be looking for another corner given Hall's injury and the free agent status of backup Adam Jones.

After visiting his family in San Diego for a week, Hall has hunkered down for the duration with Cosgray. Usually he works out in Arizona for a few weeks before coming to the Bengals offseason workouts, but not this year. He'll be here most of the time until the Bengals report April 16.

He's been getting to PBS before 10 a.m. and puts in at least two hours with Cosgray. They start by warming up the Achilles tendon with some resistance and move on to calf raises before Hall starts jumping on and off boxes. After working the Alter G, he moves to the elliptical running machine for a 20-minute stint, where he doesn't go 100 percent "but I'm going at a decent pace," he says.

Each week Cosgray gives him something new and this week he added the regular treadmill to Hall's regimen and jacked the speed slightly.

"It's like a stride, not a sprint," Hall says. "I'll spend 20 minutes on there. I might go five minutes and then do a slow walk for five minutes and do it again. It's weak right now, but this is strengthening it and conditioning it."

Hall doesn't know when he can start doing "the football stuff." For a cornerback that means the backpedal and running with receivers and ball drills. What he does know is he won't be seen until training camp in late July.

"With the Achilles, and really with any injury, you don't want to come back too early," Hall says. "As important as I think the OTAs and minicamp are, it's just as important that you don't want to go into an OTA or minicamp practice and take a step back and miss the start of training camp. Early September we'll answer some questions."

There are already other questions. For the first time in his career Hall will be coached in the Bengals secondary by someone other than Coyle, the new Dolphins defensive coordinator. Hall has yet to hear of a replacement, but he's thankful Zimmer is staying after he interviewed for head coaching jobs in Tampa Bay and Miami.

"As happy as I would have been for him to get a job, I think that's a positive that we're going to have the same defensive coordinator," Hall says. "The guys are familiar and comfortable with what they're doing. It would have been tough trying to start over and learn a new system and different terminologies."

Hall says the Bengals can't be happy being swept by Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC North, but he thinks they can assert themselves back into the division by harnessing their ample abilities.

"I think we have the tools to do so. It's like beating a dead horse. It's kind of the same thing every year," Hall says. "We have the tools, but you actually have to put it together when it counts."

He'll be off the treadmill in July and he thinks his team can join him.

"The talent's here; that's no question," he says. "Especially now more than other years. (Recently) we've had good drafts and brought in a lot of talented players in here that played early and played well."

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