Fifteen men, some who have waited decades to hear their names called, were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday as part of its Centennial Class. The group was selected to honor the NFL’s 100th anniversary.
The members, who will be enshrined in August and September, include 10 seniors, two coaches and three contributors. Hall of Fame president David Baker said Wednesday part of the Centennial Class will be enshrined with the modern-era Class of 2020 on Aug. 8, while part of the Centennial Class will be enshrined at the centennial celebration in September.
Here’s a closer look at the class:
Wide receiver Harold Carmichael (Philadelphia Eagles, 1971-1983; Dallas Cowboys, 1984)
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, the 6-foot-8 Carmichael was the league’s Man of the Year in 1980 for his work in his community. In an era when Drew Pearson once led the league in receiving yards with 877 in 1977, Carmichael was consistent in his impact, averaging over 15 yards per catch in six seasons.
Why he was elected: Carmichael was said to be one of the most difficult players to defend. Those who played against him said his numbers would be far better if he played now, when pass interference and defensive holding are called more often. He led the league in catches and receiving yards in 1973 and finished with three 1,000-yard seasons in his career. He was also among the league’s top 10 in touchdowns in eight seasons.
Tackle Jim Covert (Chicago Bears, 1983-1990)
A starter from his rookie season in 1983 to when he retired after the 1990 season. A two-time first-team All-Pro, Covert helped power a Bears offense that led the league in rushing in each of his first four seasons and finished among the top three in rushing in seven of his eight seasons. Covert played his best against the best pass-rushers of his time.
Why he was elected: A back injury ended his career in 1991. He spent that seasons on injured reserve and never returned to the field. Covert held Lawrence Taylor without a sack in his three meetings against the Hall of Famer. Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon once said Covert and Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz were the best tackles he faced.
Safety Bobby Dillon (Green Bay Packers, 1952-59)
Dillon did his best work before they became Vince Lombardi’s Packers. Green Bay had losing seasons in seven of Dillon’s eight years with the team. Dillon, like many of his era, retired before his 30th birthday and before the Packers could have enjoyed his talents on a consistent winner. Dillon also played with a glass eye because of childhood accident.
Why he was elected: Dillon retired with a staggering 52 interceptions in 94 games. In a decidedly run-first era, Dillon is tied for 26th with Hall of Famers Champ Bailey, Jack Butler, Mel Renfro and Larry Wilson on the league’s all-time list for interceptions. Dillon had three seasons with nine interceptions and five seasons with at least seven picks.
Safety Cliff Harris (Dallas Cowboys, 1970-79)
Harris made the Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted rookie in 1970, having arrived as a former college sprinter and cornerback. The Cowboys saw a future safety, and he started five games as a rookie. Harris became one of the league’s first box safeties with enough athleticism to return punts and kickoffs. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton once said the two best safeties he faced were Harris and Hall of Famer Jake Scott.
Why he was elected: A player nicknamed “Captain Crash,” Harris was selected to six Pro Bowls. He led the Cowboys in tackles in 1976 and interceptions in 1977. He played on two Super Bowl winners, and the Cowboys were in the postseason in nine of his 10 years. Dallas won 72.9 percent of its games in the 1970s.
Tackle Winston Hill (New York Jets, 1963-76; Los Angeles Rams, 1977)
Hill is part of a group vastly underrepresented in the Hall of Fame: players who excelled in the AFL. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, he played seven seasons with AFL’s Jets and eight more after the AFL-NFL merger. Many longtime league observers have said he so dominated in Super Bowl III he should have been the MVP.
Why he was elected: Hill was a player with remarkable footwork — he played tennis in his youth — who played with power, technique and quickness. He missed one game in his 14 seasons with the Jets — as a rookie. His career was overshadowed by the fact the Jets had three winning seasons in his 14 years, but Hall of Fame coach Weeb Ewbank said Hill should have been enshrined decades ago.
Defensive tackle Alex Karras (Detroit Lions 1958-1962, 1964-1970)
Karras was an NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion at Iowa and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 1957 as a defensive lineman. He still holds the Lions’ career record for sacks with 97.5. He was a dominant player during his era, but for a team that did not win a championship. Karras played in one postseason game in 1970. Karras was also suspended for gambling, along with Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, for the 1963 season.
Why he was elected: Three defensive tackles were named to the All-Decade team of the 1960s — Karras, Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. Lilly and Olsen were enshrined as first-ballot selections while Karras was never a finalist in his 25 years of eligibility. He was a four-time All-Pro selection. Karras’ only playoff appearance was in the last game of his career; the Lions held the Cowboys without a touchdown but still lost 5-0.
Safety Donnie Shell (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-87)
Shell was physical enough to play the run like a linebacker with the athleticism and savvy to have 51 career interceptions. He covered tight ends like Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome in man-to-man situations and was also a feared hitter along the line of scrimmage. Shell played on four Super Bowl winners and was voted the team MVP of the 1980 Steelers, a team that included nine Hall of Famers (Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount).
Why he was elected: He was a five-time Pro Bowl and three-time first-team All-Pro selection. Couple Shell’s 51 career interceptions with 19 career fumble recoveries and those 70 career takeaways are Canton-worthy. He had a six-year stretch — 1979-1984 — with at least five interceptions in a season, including seven in 1980 and 1984.
Tackle Duke Slater (Milwaukee Badgers, 1922; Rock Island Independents, 1922-25; Chicago Cardinals, 1926-31)
Slater is considered the first African-American player in professional football in the first half of the 20th century. At a time when most players played for one or two seasons before injuries or the need for more income pushed them out of the league, Slater was good enough to play for a decade. A two-way player, Slater had a four-year stretch in Rock Island when he played every minute of each game. He continued to play both ways through the final years of his career with the Cardinals.
Why he was elected: Slater started 96 of 99 career games and, when he retired, his 10 seasons were the third-most of any professional player. He was a six-time All-Pro, and Slater did all of it while battling racism. The only game Slater missed in his career was in 1924 due to an agreement that prevented African-American players from playing in Missouri. His teammates wanted to forfeit the game, but Slater said he would fake an injury because his teammates would not be paid if they didn’t play.
Defensive end Mac Speedie (Cleveland Browns, 1944-52)
Speedie played seven seasons for the Browns, who went to league championship games in each of those years with five victories. Some believe he did not make the Hall of Fame after his retirement, despite being an All-Decade selection for the 1940s and leading the league in receptions four times, because he left Paul Brown’s team for more money to play in Saskatchewan. Speedie’s departure angered the influential Brown, who sued Speedie for breach of contract but lost. In fact, Speedie wasn’t even added to the Browns’ Hall of Fame until 1999.
Why he was elected: His 1,146 receiving yards in 1947 not only led his league — the AAFC — but were 202 yards more than any player in the NFL that year. His 1,028 yards in 1949 also led the AAFC and would have led the NFL that year as well. He averaged 800 yards receiving per year in his career, a figure another player with as many seasons of experience wouldn’t reach for two decades after his retirement. In 10 seasons over three leagues — the AAFC, NFL and what is now the CFL — he was an all-league pick eight times.
Defensive end/linebacker/end Ed Sprinkle (Chicago Bears, 1944-55)
This is the player George Halas, who was a part of the NFL from the 1920s as a player to the 1980s as a team owner, called “the greatest pass-rusher I’ve ever seen.” Sprinkle once graced a magazine cover that dubbed him “the meanest man in pro football.” In a title game against the Giants, Sprinkle knocked two New York running backs out of the game — George Franck with a separated shoulder and Frank Reagan with a broken nose — and also fractured the nose of Giants quarterback Frank Filchock.
Why he was elected: Sprinkle was an elite player long before sacks and forced fumbles were official statistics. He was voted by his peers, many who disliked playing against him, to four of the first five Pro Bowls (the Pro Bowl didn’t exist until 1950) and was selected to All-Decade team of the 1940s.
Bill Cowher (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1992-2006)
Cowher followed legend Chuck Noll as head coach of the Steelers. Pittsburgh has had just three head coaches since 1969 — Noll, Cowher and Mike Tomlin. The fiery Cowher won with both a power-first offense and a wide-open, pass-first attack. The Steelers’ defenses were also consistently among the league’s best.
Why he was elected: He had nine 10-win seasons in 15 years with the Steelers, won eight division titles and Super Bowl XL. Cowher is 20th on the league’s all-time wins list among coaches, and his team’s defenses finished among the league’s top five in scoring defense seven times. His .623 winning percentage is 14th all-time among coaches who have been in the league for at least 10 years. Nine of those other coaches are already in the Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Johnson (Dallas Cowboys, 1989-1993; Miami Dolphins, 1996-99)
Like the 49ers’ Bill Walsh, Johnson’s tenure wasn’t as long as many already enshrined, but he made the most of those nine seasons with two Super Bowl wins as the Dallas Cowboys went from 1-15 in his first season in 1989 to 36-12 in his last three years in Dallas with the back-to-back Super Bowl victories.
Why he was elected: Johnson is credited with the extensive use of the draft chart to make trades, while his Herschel Walker and Steve Walsh trades netted him four first-round picks, four second-round picks and two third-round picks. He turned those picks into a team that won three Super Bowls — two for him and one for Barry Switzer. With the Cowboys, Johnson drafted 18 players who would start in Super Bowls, including three Super Bowl MVPs, and 15 players who would be selected to a Pro Bowl. In Miami, he drafted four players who would go to a combined 19 Pro Bowls (Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain) and none of them were first-round picks.
Administrator/president Steve Sabol (NFL Films 1964-2012)
There are few, if any, in the league that question the impact of Steve Sabol, and his father Ed, given their work with NFL Films. Steve Sabol took over NFL Films from his father in 1976, and in 2003, the Sabols were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Emmy award. Before cable television, NFL Films’ signature vignettes were how many fans came to see the game, with the slow-motion, music and narration each week.
Why he was elected: When Steve Sabol died of cancer in 2012, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said “Steve’s legacy will be part of the NFL forever. … A man who changed the way we look at football and sports.” Steve Sabol won 35 Emmys in his time at NFL Films. His father, Ed, was enshrined in 2011, and they are now the third father-son combination in the Hall of Fame, joining Tim and Wellington Mara and Art and Dan Rooney.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1989-2006)
He has been a polarizing candidate for some of his early comments on concussions as well as stadium troubles in California during his tenure, having been turned away four times by the Hall’s Board of Selectors over the past 14 years. But his supporters cite his role in the growth of the NFL into a global, multibillion dollar business, his part in the creation of the Rooney Rule, to promote diversity in hiring, and a long period of labor peace between the league and the players’ union.
Why he was elected: It took 11 votes, in multiple cities over multiple meetings, by the NFL owners to select Tagliabue in 1989 to replace Pete Rozelle as the league’s commissioner. Before Tagliabue’s tenure, the commissioner largely ran the league’s day-to-day operations but held little power. Tagliabue flipped it to make the commissioner the central figure in the NFL’s operations. Record television revenues and extended labor peace followed. His most ardent supporters, including Hall of Famer and late Steelers owner Dan Rooney, said Tagliabue should have been in the Hall of Fame long ago.
Executive/general manager George Young (Baltimore Colts, 1968-1974; Miami Dolphins, 1975-78; New York Giants, 1979-1997; National Football League)
The Giants were a mess when Young was hired in 1979, with two winning seasons between 1964 and Young’s first day on the job. Young was given total control of the team’s football operations. He drafted a future Hall of Famer in Lawrence Taylor and hired future Hall of Famer Bill Parcells as coach, and two Super Bowl victories followed.
Why he was elected: Young was a five-time winner of the league’s Executive of the Year award, which now bears his name. The only other former general manager to win the award five times is Hall of Famer Bill Polian. Young restored stability to the Giants. He worked with two Hall of Fame coaches in Parcells and Don Shula. Young went on to fill a newly created position with the NFL as the league’s director of football operations.
Editor’s note: ESPN Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold is a Hall of Fame voter and a member of the panel that selected the NFL Centennial Class.
Bills rookie Ford has fine reduced, donates fan-raised money to charity
Originally fined $28,075 for his hit during Buffalo’s AFC Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans, Ford appealed the decision and won, earning a new punishment of $4,211.
Both the penalty and its ensuing fine were met with near-universal criticism last month; the penalty stalled a critical late-game drive and knocked Buffalo out of field goal range. Once the original fine was announced, fans started a GoFundMe campaign to help Ford pay the amount, raising $3,870 — which Ford said was donated to charity.
Thank You Bills Fans…the money you guys raised through the go fund me for my fine was donated to charity….My fine was reduced to just over 4K…I still believe I did nothing wrong on that play #BillsMafia
— Cody Ford ✞ (@Cody_Ford74) February 20, 2020
The call was widely panned because the hit seemed tame by NFL standards; Ford did not launch into defender Jacob Martin, whose body appeared to be facing Ford’s direction at the time of the impact. However, Ford was coming back toward the line of scrimmage and initiated contact with his shoulder, drawing the penalty.
On 3rd-and-9 in overtime against Houston on Jan. 4, Bills quarterback Josh Allen scrambled four yards to the Texans’ 38-yard line to bring up 4th down — which became 3rd-and-24 after the 15-yard penalty on Ford. Buffalo failed to convert from there, punted and ultimately lost the game on a game-winning Texans field goal.
Per source, Bills OL Cody Ford will appeal the $28,075 fine he received for this hit pic.twitter.com/oae5DnIP1O
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) January 11, 2020
The Bills’ second-round pick out of Oklahoma, Ford started 15 games at right tackle in 2019. In his tweet announcing the reduction Thursday, he stood firm that he disagrees with the penalty.
Source — Redskins TE Jordan Reed cleared from protocol, released
ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was cleared from the concussion protocol, a source confirmed Wednesday, and was released Thursday, as expected, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates.
Reed suffered the concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit in August, during the third preseason game. His clearance from the protocol was first reported by The Athletic. Redskins coach Ron Rivera had said Saturday that Reed remained in the protocol.
With Reed’s release, Washington will save $8.5 million against the salary cap, with $1.8 million in dead money. Reed had two years left on his contract.
Reed, 29, missed all of last season because of the concussion, his seventh documented one since he started playing college football. His career has been marked by multiple injuries, and Reed has never played more than 14 games in a season. A source close to Reed said the tight end wants to continue playing.
He had struggled for two seasons because of ligament damage to his big toes but looked good in training camp over the summer. But in the third preseason game, Reed suffered a concussion after Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit. Reed nearly returned in Week 2, getting cleared by the team, but after symptoms returned, an independent neurologist failed to clear him. He did not practice after Sept. 12 and was put on injured reserve Oct. 14.
Washington made Reed the focal point of its passing attack under former coach Jay Gruden. He responded with a big season in 2015, when he played a career-high 14 games. That season, Reed caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns — all personal bests.
After that season, the Redskins signed Reed to a five-year extension worth up to $46.75 million, and he made his lone Pro Bowl after the 2016 season. But from 2016 to 2018, thanks to injuries, he averaged only 49 catches per season with a combined 10 touchdowns. He has 329 career receptions with 24 touchdowns.
Washington selected Reed in the third round out of Florida in the 2013 draft and he provided immediate help, catching 45 passes in nine games before injuries ended his rookie season. Reed proved to be a mismatch for linebackers or safeties, especially when aligned in the slot. The Redskins loved his ability to quickly win versus a defender, making him an ideal target.
The Redskins have a big need at tight end. Last year’s starter, Vernon Davis, retired — though it was unlikely they would have re-signed him anyway. Washington visited with Greg Olsen, but he ended up signing with the Seattle Seahawks.
Washington already released two former starters this month: cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Paul Richardson. After those moves, the Redskins have approximately $54 million in salary-cap space.
NFL owners vote to accept negotiated terms on proposed new CBA
NFL owners on Thursday accepted the negotiated terms of a new proposed collective bargaining agreement, sending the vote to players ahead of a potential agreement between the sides.
All 32 owners met Thursday in New York City for an update on the current proposal.
Three-fourths of the owners had to approve the CBA for it to be ratified. While owners were not unanimous in their approval, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the proposal still garnered enough support to pass.
“Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players — past, present, and future — both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL’s second century is even better and more exciting for the fans,” the league said in a statement.
“The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement. Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms. Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time.”
NFLPA team player reps and the NFLPA’s executive council, which had been planning a Friday meeting in Washington, D.C., on the topic, are now planning to hold a conference call Friday instead of meeting face-to-face. That call could result in a vote on whether to approve the owners’ offer or reject it.
If two-thirds of the NFLPA’s player reps approve the deal, it would move on to the next stage, in which all NFL players would vote and a simple majority would be required to approve.
Sources previously told ESPN that the proposed CBA would allow the league to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games at some point in the next four years (though no sooner than 2021) in exchange for financial and other concessions the players have sought in negotiations. One concession is that the preseason will be shortened to three games per team, sources said.
In addition, sources said the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams from each conference, and only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye as opposed to the two that currently do.
The league’s desire to expand the regular season has been met with harsh opposition from many players, who view an expanded season as an unnecessary increase in the risk to players’ health and safety. But union leaders have touted to players the benefits of the proposed new deal, which includes a higher percentage of league revenue going to players, improvements in the drug policy and discipline policy, higher minimum salaries, higher per-team spending floors and relaxed offseason work rules.
Information from ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Adam Schefter was used in this report.
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