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Falcons fine Hall $100,000, may bench him for part of next game

As if the loss of Michael Vick wasn't enough, the winless Atlanta Falcons are dealing with another distraction involving a high-profile player.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As if the loss of Michael Vick wasn't enough, the winless Atlanta Falcons are dealing with another distraction involving a high-profile player.

Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall said Wednesday he's been fined $100,000 by the team and may have to sit out one or two quarters of the next game for his meltdown last week against the Carolina Panthers.

Hall wasn't pleased with the decision and plans to appeal through the NFL Players Association.

The Falcons (0-3) acted quickly after their defensive star was called for three penalties totaling 67 yards on one possession, including two personal fouls, then got into a heated sideline confrontation with coach Bobby Petrino and one of his assistants.

Petrino decided on the penalties after consulting some of the team's leaders.

"I don't think this is the first time it's happened in the National Football League, and it definitely won't be the last time," Hall said. "I think it's a little bit unfair. But he made his decision, and we need to move on from here. I'll try to rectify it and move on."

The penalties led to a Carolina touchdown that tied the game at 17 in the third quarter. The Panthers went on to a 27-20 victory.

"When things like that take place, it's unacceptable," said 10th-year linebacker Keith Brooking, who's been with the team longer than anyone. "DeAngelo knows that. I know he feels bad about it. But when things like that do occur, guys have to be held accountable."

Brooking added, "That's not the total reason we lost that game. But that was part of it, no doubt about it."

NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said the union had received notice of the fine against Hall.

"We will be discussing the possibility of an appeal with DeAngelo and his representatives soon," Francis said.

Hall has 45 days to appeal. If he does, the team would get seven days to respond. After that, the case would be submitted to a neutral arbitrator, who would set a hearing date and eventually rule on whether the team had proper cause to impose the sanctions.

In addition to the hefty fine, Hall said he might be suspended for either the first quarter or the entire first half of Sunday's game against Houston (2-1). The Texans' offense is directed by former Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub, who's completing nearly 76 percent of his passes.

Petrino would only confirm a decision was reached on disciplining Hall, but wouldn't discuss the details.

"It is something that we are keeping in house," the first-year coach said.

Shortly after Petrino vowed to keep the matter private, Hall revealed it to some two dozen members of the media crowded around his locker. He clearly believes the coach acted too harshly.

"My agent is working on it with the union and hopefully we can get something worked out," he said. "I want to be here. I started my career here and I'd like to finish my career here. It's unfortunate the situation that happened. But you do a little growing. Things are going to happen. Things are going to go against you at times."

Hall had been jawing much of the game with Carolina's star receiver, Steve Smith, when the trouble began. For starters, Smith clearly beat the cornerback on a deep pass and was dragged down from behind for a 37-yard interference penalty.

Hall had no reason to complain about that call, but he was still upset when he lined up across from Smith on the next play. While the Panthers were handing the ball off on a run, Hall gave Smith a hard shove to the upper chest while jamming him at the line, drawing a personal foul penalty.

Three plays later, Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme was sacked for a 9-yard loss, apparently forcing the Panthers into a field-goal attempt. But Hall and Smith tangled again, and Hall was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he wouldn't stop talking.

The Panthers ran for a touchdown two plays later and kept the momentum the rest of the game.

Enraged by the penalties, Hall got into it with Petrino and assistant coach Joe Whitt Jr. in a heated argument on the sideline. Three players had to step in to pull their teammate away.

The Falcons' first-round pick in 2004, Hall had 10 interceptions over the last two seasons and made the Pro Bowl both times. He also won a contest as the league's fastest player and, like many cornerbacks, isn't shy about discussing his immense talent or sparring verbally with the receivers he's covering.

Things got out of hand against Carolina, overshadowing the fact that Hall held Smith to only one catch for 10 yards.

"He needs to understand that if he plays the way he played on Sunday, people will respect him," tight end Alge Crumpler said. "I support the guy. He plays hard. He plays with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion. But you can never let it get the best of you on Sundays."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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