Steve Smith, DeAngelo Hall feud has mellowed over the years
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - There was a time when wide receiver Steve Smith and cornerback DeAngelo Hall had one of the most intense feuds in the NFL.
Perhaps they've matured or time has healed old wounds, but the two veterans seem to have a greater respect for each other as players. So if there's going to be any trash talk between them it will have to come on the field when Smith's Carolina Panthers host Hall and the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
A long-running feud boiled over in 2006 when Hall said Smith scored a "fluke touchdown" against him.
Smith answered by calling Hall a "court jester."
Attacks off the field led to a physical altercation on the field on Sept. 23, 2007, when Smith egged Hall, then a member of the Atlanta Falcons, into three penalties worth 37 yards on the same drive. The meltdown led to the Panthers scoring the tying touchdown in a game they'd go on to win 27-20 at the Georgia Dome. The following week Hall was benched.
The two talked this week like those run-ins were distant memories.
Hall praised his adversary, saying Smith is back at the top of his game.
Hall, now in his fourth season with the Redskins, called Smith - the NFC's leader in yards receiving - "pound for pound best wide receiver in the game."
He also downplayed their long running feud while both played in the NFC South.
"I don't think it was ever a level of dislike between us," Hall said. "We're two fierce competitors and we're a lot alike that way. We want to get the best out of each other and try to beat the other one down. That's probably not going to change. It's going to be the same kind of scenario Sunday.
"He's going to come out and try to impose his will on me and I'm going to do likewise."
Smith almost seemed a little taken aback by Hall's compliments, but said he'll approach his old nemesis like it's just another game.
"He's a good opponent and he can play," Smith said. "So you have to be ready to play. But to me it's like playing against Charles Woodson, Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson or any other cornerback in the league."
Smith, now 32 and trying his best to enjoy his final years in the NFL, said there's no added personal incentive to beat Hall, saying that he could make this a one-on-one battle but prefers not to do that.
"I don't have the time," Smith said. "I have a lot of other things going on like watching film."
Smith leads the NFC in yards receiving and yards per catch coming into the seventh week of the season, averaging more than 112 yards per game.
"He's playing great football," Hall said. "He's playing back to the level that when we used to battle that he was playing at. He's going to be over there in Hawaii (to the Pro Bowl) at the end of the year. He's making plays and he's tenacious.
"He's had some quarterback problems over the years, but he's back. Cam (Newton) is looking for him and those guys are hooking up and making a lot of plays."
Early in their careers Smith and Hall once dined together and considered themselves friends.
But that friendship quickly ended when Hall took some shots at Smith through the media.
"You best believe, when he's hanging in the air, I will be taking a shot at him," Hall said prior to a game in 2005. "Period. I'm trying to kill people this year. Period."
Hall also described a touchdown Smith had caught on him earlier that year as a "fluke play."
Smith responded by calling Hall a "court jester."
"I guess when you are on the top you have a lot of people try to knock you down," Smith said at the time. "Some people are lower than others on the totem pole by age, performance and talk. So when you're the court jester and you're talking to the king, you have to do stuff like that. But other than that, I'm not going to play games with little kids. There's no reason to. When you talk you obviously are insecure about something and if you talk long enough, you will hang yourself."
They last met in 2009 and Smith had five catches for 65 yards as the Panthers defeated the Redskins 20-17.