By: Shaun BijaniBy Shaun Bijani

Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – There are a number things teams do each and every year to try and develop a positive atmosphere around the locker room and on the field.

One of the things the Atlanta Falcons do to help measure the daily stresses of training, practice, film work and media sessions is leaving a ping pong table in their locker room for the players to use during their off time.

It could be looked at as their “water cooler” time. A space to go and unwind, when you don’t have time to go home because another film session or meeting awaits.

The idea of course is to also create an opportunity for players to hang out, talk and just be there with the rest of their football family.

Family is a word that is often used by athletes in every sport when they talk about their teammates, and for Hal, Quintin Demps is certainly like a brother to him, as Demps, he says, has helped make all the difference in the world for him.

“We’re kind of like brothers now. you know how it is, you go through training camp with these guys, you go through all this stuff with these guys, it’s hard” Hal said. “It’s tough playing in the NFL, but you got guys like that constantly helping you, pushing you along, especially Quintin.”

Hal, played in 15 games in 2016, started 11 while amassing 31 tackles, 2 interceptions and his first career sack.

Hal has come a long way since entering the league as the Texans 7th round pick (216 overall) in 2014.

“I think it was kind of a learning season for me, because it was my 3rd year in the league but actually 2nd year playing safety. This year I was kind of like the full time safety, I had to really prepare, take care of my body. I got nicked up sometimes, just hitting and tackling doing stuff like that. I played corner all my life so coming in going downhill, LaGarrette Blount and all these 280 pound running backs (he says while laughing)…I think this year was more of like a developmental year for me.”

While, this past season might well have been a learning curve for Hal, making a full-time switch to safety, he said he first learned he could play in this league during a 2014 practice session while covering the best receiver in the history of the Texans franchise.

“I was going against Andre Johnson, he ran a post route and I read the stem, I read the post and as I was running I saw the ball, I jumped over his head and the ball was on my helmet… I picked it, and I was like ‘whoa, that was Andre Johnson’, he’s probably a future hall-of-famer and I just did that against him. I can play in this league, you know I belong.”

Hal, like another young talent in the Texans secondary, AJ Bouye, most definitely belong in the NFL. Both coming off very good seasons, in which they helped their unit become the top defense in the league.

Hal says he’s hopeful the team is able to bring back Bouye, along with Demps and keep the secondary together with himself Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph to make a serious run next year.

The 2017 Texans defense will have a new coordinator in Mike Vrable, who was promoted this off-season from his role as linebacker’s coach. Romeo Crennel, not going anywhere, will take on an expanded role of assistant head coach. Hal, understanding that Vrable and Crennel are two totally different personalities, is confident the Texans can continue to flourish defensively with the change.

“I think he was doing the game plan (last season), helping out (Romeo Crennel) too, you know kind of groomed him. I think he’ll do fine, you know he knows the defense, he played in the defense, he’s coached in the defense, I think we’ll take off where we left off. We’ll pick it up.”

Andre Hal is an excitable, positive and inspiring guy to be around. He’s a product of his teammates around him. players like his “brother”, Quintin Demps and other veterans he looks up to and learns from everyday like Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson.

That confidence has to come from a place. It has to be verified. It has to be real.

While this past year was quite tumultuous on the offensive side of the ball, Hal said one thing Crennel made crystal clear to the defense was, regardless of where (the defense) take the field, if it’s the 50 yard-line or the 1, “We play defense. No excuses.”


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