Hall has returns addressed


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Jan 22, 2006
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Hall has returns addressed
Chiefs returner realizes he can’t run them all back, but he still thinks big.
The Kansas City Star

RIVER FALLS, Wis. | - It is a lunar eclipse, a bolt of lightning, and Dante Hall has finally figured this out. He sits on a metal bench after practice, eyes a splint that wraps around his thumb, and gets comfortable.

Touchdown returns, Hall says, are so complicated and rare. Eclipses. If one came out every day, who would take a picture of it? Hall had four touchdown returns in 2003, and he thought he could get four more. He knows better now, and doesn’t expect the moon.

“I put too much pressure on myself to break the record and return it every time I touched it,” Hall said. “Somebody in (PR) gave me a list of all the returners who have returned before me, Gale Sayers and Deion Sanders, some Hall of Fame guys. That’s when I realized even these guys never took more than four back a season.

“It was like, ‘Yo, who do you think you are? You can’t return every kick.’ ”

Not every one. Hall is hurting, he’s lost his favorite coach, and he’s rarely felt better. Mention the Chiefs’ new coaches and schemes, and Dante’s eyes get bigger and he talks faster. Ask him how many returns he’ll take back this year.

He says five.

“I’m shooting for something I’ve never done,” he said. “I’m pretty sure Larry (Johnson) ain’t trying to shoot for 1,700 (yards) this year. I’m sure we’re not just trying to go to the playoffs. We’re shooting for the ultimate thing.”

Hall has always thought bigger. At 5 feet 8, he was considered too small to play in the NFL, then he met coach Dick Vermeil. By Hall’s second season, he was a Pro Bowl return specialist. Everything seemed easy. He had three kick returns for touchdowns in 2002. He was 24.

Then everyone wanted Hall — his friends, the people doing his radio show, the gawkers, the would-be tacklers. He touched the ball 142 times for a club-record 2,446 combined net yards and tied a single-season record for most kick-return touchdowns.

He came home tired every night, sometime after 8 o’clock, and barely had time to talk to his son. Two buddies were living in his house, keeping him up late hours watching movies and playing video games. By 2004, when the Chiefs loaded up his duties at wide receiver, something had to give.

He cut the radio gig and the late nights. Eventually, the coaches eased up on his workload. Hall’s been asked it so many times he gets sick of the question — How many touches can you handle?

“I will say this — two years ago when Johnnie Morton went down and Eddie (Kennison) went down, I had to start and it about wore me out,” Hall said. “To return a kick 35 yards and have to go right in the huddle and do three or four plays at a hot tempo …

“I’m really comfortable with my role now. Not too many return guys play 30 to 40 percent on the offense and go right in and rotate with the starters. So I love it.”

From the start, new coach Herm Edwards loved Hall. In a late-spring workout, Edwards said he’d fully utilize Hall as a receiver. He wants to design plays to get Hall in space because he’s so hard to tackle.

“He’s too explosive,” Edwards said. “We need to get the ball in his hands.”

Hall has seen plenty of work during the first week of training camp, but he’s not as tired because of Edwards’ fast-tempo practices. The extra time gives Hall a chance to do more core work to help with his speed and lift more weights.

And as much as he “loved coach Vermeil to death,” Hall is excited by the arrival of new special teams coach Mike Priefer. Under the old regime, the Chiefs ran the same scheme, Hall said, for six years. Some friends in the NFL said they’d long figured it out.

The numbers showed it. Hall has 10 touchdown returns, three shy of the all-time NFL record, but nine of them came in three seasons in 2002-04.

“We’ve got new personnel too, and that’s big,” Hall said. “When I was hot, I used to tell people all the time, it’s not just me. … The guys blocking for me were creating those holes and they were excited about it. The personnel we had last year, those guys just weren’t geeked up like the guys we had before. “It’s going to be a chess game. I get to go anywhere I choose.”

Even the moon.



The Chiefs will practice twice today, with the morning workout in pads and the afternoon in shells. Sunday was their first full day off of camp.


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