AFC East: Chris Doleman

CANTON, Ohio -- Dermontti Dawson, the fifth of six Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees to speak Saturday night, thanked his parents for the guidance they provided over the years.

The other modern-day finalists preceding Dawson at the podium -- Willie Roaf, Chris Doleman and Cortez Kennedy -- made similar comments.

Curtis Martin, the final enshrinee scheduled to speak, will tell a different story. He'll surely pay tribute to his mother, but so many other factors in his life worked against him. His father left the family when Martin was 4. His grandmother was stabbed to death in brutal fashion when Martin was 9.

Martin never dreamed of the Hall of Fame; at one point, his goal while growing up in a rough Pittsburgh neighborhood was simply reaching age 21. The speech he delivers Saturday night has the potential to pack a different type of emotional punch.
Curtis MartinCraig Melvin/US PresswireRunning back Curtis Martin finished his Hall of Fame career with 14,101 rushing yards.
Every NFL player could learn from Curtis Martin.

The former third-round draft pick was never the fastest player, nor the biggest nor the most athletic. But it was Martin's heart, work ethic, character and dedication that made him the NFL's fourth all-time leading rusher with 14,101 yards.

Martin's football journey will end this weekend in Canton, Ohio. He is part of the 2012 Hall of Fame class that also includes Willie Roaf, Cortez Kennedy, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman and Jack Butler.

Martin overcame any physical deficiencies with intangibles. He was smart and very durable. Martin also had longevity and was consistent, which are all key elements to get into the Hall of Fame. Martin put together 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. In 2004, he became the oldest player to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,697 yards at age 31, when most running backs hit a wall. That season cemented Martin's legacy and made him a lock for Canton.

Martin is also on a very short list of Bill Parcells' favorite players. Parcells was notoriously demanding and difficult to play for. Yet, the Super Bowl-winning coach calls Martin one of the greatest players he’s ever coached. Parcells made it a point to have Martin on his team in both New England and New York. Naturally, Parcells will be Martin's presenter on Saturday during his enshrinement. The two would have it no other way.

Martin set a great example that the NFL is not all about draft status or pure athletic ability. Martin got the most out of himself every year, and it landed him in Canton.

Andre Reed has strong Hall of Fame case

February, 2, 2011
2/02/11
4:30
PM ET
Andre ReedUS PRESSWIREFormer Bills receiver Andre Reed finished his career with 951 catches for 13,198 yards and 87 TDs.
Receptions come a lot cheaper these days.

The game has changed, and all you need for proof is a glance at Paul Warfield's career stats. He caught more than 50 passes once. He gained more than 1,000 yards once. In some of his Pro Bowl seasons, his numbers wouldn't have justified a roster spot in your 10-team fantasy league.

Yet Warfield is considered one the most dangerous receivers NFL history, a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer.

"Our game is beginning to resemble baseball in which everyone is looking at numbers," Warfield said this week from his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "Numbers tell the story to a degree, but I like to look at one's full body of work.

"I'm from the old-school generation. You might be termed a wide receiver, but you should be a football player first."

Steve Largent is another example of how stats don't quantify a receiver's worth like they used to. Largent retired after the 1989 season as the NFL's all-time leading receiver with 819 catches. He, too, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Twenty-one years later, Largent ranks 20th in receptions behind such names as Derrick Mason, Torry Holt, Keenan McCardell, Muhsin Muhammad and fullback Larry Centers.

In 1985, only four players had caught 600 passes. The list is 55 players long now.

"It doesn't necessarily undermine a player's ability to get into the Hall of Fame because he had great stats or doesn't have great stats," Largent said Monday from his office in Washington D.C. "You're looking for a guy who was the total package."

With that in mind, you might consider Andre Reed's stats if you choose when deciding if he belongs in the Hall of Fame. They're sterling -- if a little outdated and discounted by time.

To both Largent and Warfield and other legendary receivers, Reed qualifies for Canton without even looking at the numbers.

"I saw the value Reed had to that team not only as a receiver, but also as a leader," Largent said. "There are some attributes you don't keep statistics of, but you become aware of as one player watching another play the game."

Reed is Largent's "total package" and Warfield's unequivocal embodiment of "football player."

"It's long overdue for Andre," Warfield said.

Reed is among the 15 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists who will learn Saturday whether they will be included in this year's induction class.

The star Buffalo Bills receiver has been a finalist five times. There's a belief this year offers his best chance yet. In previous years, he has shared the ballot with at least one receiver who took precedence because they were icons (Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin) or had been waiting longer (Art Monk).

Reed could become the sixth Hall of Famer from a team that went to four straight Super Bowls but failed to win one.

Already enshrined are Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy. Wide receiver James Lofton also is in Canton, but he didn't play on all four Super Bowl teams, and is more closely associated with the Green Bay Packers.

"I was a part of something special, and I'll take that to my grave," said Reed, 47. "We were a family. But the Hall of Fame, I don't know how I would react. It would be a validation of your work and what you did.

"Hopefully on Saturday I can be in that fraternity with them, but every year it's a tough ballot."

The other finalists include running backs Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, receivers Tim Brown and Cris Carter, tight end Shannon Sharpe, center Dermontti Dawson, tackle Willie Roaf, defensive ends Richard Dent, Charles Haley and Chris Doleman, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, cornerback Deion Sanders and NFL Films patriarch Ed Sabol.

The Hall of Fame's 44-member selection committee will decide Saturday. The group includes NFL writers, one representative per franchise, 11 at-large voters and one from the Pro Football Writers Association. The committee will pare the group of 15 finalists down to 10 and then to five. At that point, a vote will be held, with 80 percent agreement needed for induction.

Up to five modern-era candidates may be elected each year. First-time nominees Faulk and Sanders are virtual locks to get inducted. That leaves three spots available for Reed and the other finalists to get in.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan will make the case for Reed's induction. It's a compelling one.

"He certainly had a great career, one of the great clutch receivers," Warfield said. "He was consistent, one Jim Kelly could always go to and always find open in a situation where they're trying to make a big play. He's an all-encompassing receiver."

Reed was third on the NFL's all-time receptions list when he retired after the 2000 season with 951 catches, behind only Rice and Carter. Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a superstar on a team that won four conference championships in a row.

"He was as dangerous a receiver as there is," former Bills quarterback Frank Reich said. "Versus press coverage, he was almost impossible to stop, coming off the ball. We always felt if they tried to play tight man on Andre it didn't matter who was guarding him. Any shutdown corner in the league in press coverage, Andre was going to beat him."

Reed was a force on the big stage. In 19 postseason games he had 85 receptions for 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns. He didn't score any Super Bowl touchdowns, but he did have 27 receptions for 323 yards.

In the Bills' epic comeback against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 postseason, he made eight catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns.

Reed is known as tremendously durable. He played 253 games, counting playoffs. He often darted into traffic to make plays in a crowd of defenders.

"No fear," Reich said.

Reed was one the greatest ever when it came to yards after the catch, second perhaps only to Rice.

[+] EnlargeAndre Reed
US PresswireAndre Reed, on playing for the Bills: "I was a part of something special, and I'll take that to my grave,"
"Most people that were on that team or played against us will remember how explosive he was in run-after-the-catch," said Reich, now Peyton Manning's position coach with the Indianapolis Colts. "He rivaled Jerry Rice in that category. Like Jerry Rice, his 40 time was good and probably not great. But there was nobody faster with the ball in his hands."

What put Reed's production in even greater context is a closer look at Buffalo's offense in the 1990s.

Many fans, even those who closely followed the Bills then, recall a prolific aerial attack. They remember Kelly running the no-huddle, K-Gun offense and slinging the ball all over the field to Reed and Lofton.

As Gaughan will point out again Saturday, the Bills ranked 17th in passing offense throughout Reed's career. In Reed's six prime seasons from 1988 through 1993, the Bills passed 51 percent of the time. By comparison, the Washington Redskins' famed "Hogs" offense passed 50 percent of the time when Monk was there.

Reed didn't have much receiving help either. He played with Lofton for four seasons, but Lofton was 33 years old when he joined Buffalo. In 1988, for instance, Reed's second and third receivers were Trumaine Johnson and Chris Burkett.

So far, the chief impediment for Reed's induction hasn't been his resume, but the other names on the ballot.

A wide receiver has been inducted each of the past four years, and in seven classes out of the past decade.

Gaughan noted there is room in Canton for at least two more receivers from the 1990s. A breakdown of membership shows seven receivers who predominantly played in the 1960s, four from 1970s, four from the 1980s and two from the 1990s.

Reed, Carter and Brown are the worthiest receiver candidates to join Rice and Irvin from that decade.

There's a velvet rope. This is Reed's fifth year as a finalist. Carter has been a finalist four times, Brown twice.

Reed apparently jockeyed to the head of the receiver line last year. In the selection process, Carter and Brown didn't make the top-10 stage, but Reed did.

That development has raised Reed's hopes for 2011.

"I'll be more nervous because of the way the voting went last year," Reed said. "I feel I'm more deserving of it. It was pretty close. The anticipation is enhanced this year."

But there are no guarantees. Several legendary receivers have waited longer than five years to get the Canton call. Don Maynard, John Stallworth and Monk got in on their eighth time as finalists. Lynn Swann was a finalist 14 times. The Seniors Committee was necessary to induct Bob Hayes 34 years after his last NFL game.

Reed admitted he has fantasized about the phone call too many times to count. He's even tried to research the moment.

"I've talked to a bunch of Hall of Famers who say when they get the call they're at a loss for words," said Reed, who plays a lot of golf and sells his own line of barbeque sauce in the San Diego area. "They don't know how to react.

"I'll just have to wait and see."

And hopefully not have to wait some more.

Should Curtis Martin be first-ballot HOFer?

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
2:45
PM ET
Curtis Martin has the credentials to justify induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Martin
Tony Kurdzuk/US PresswireDo Curtis Martin's credentials qualify him for the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot?
But does the popular New York Jets and New England Patriots running back belong to an even more elite group that that?

Martin is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time and will find out Saturday whether he will join the 65 other legends who've gone straight to Canton without delay.

New York Daily News writer Gary Myers examines the possibility Martin will get the Hall of Fame call Saturday. Martin's beloved coach, Bill Parcells, asserted Martin should coast into Canton.

"If the idea is to separate yourself, you got the case right there, you can't dispute it," Parcells told Myers. "Come on. That is roller skates."

Martin played 11 seasons and led his team in rushing every time. He finished with 14,101 yards (fourth all-time behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders) and 90 touchdowns. Martin added 484 receptions for 3,329 yards and 10 more touchdowns, giving him an even 100.

Martin was Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1995 and made five Pro Bowl teams.

Up to five modern-era candidates will be inducted. But with fellow first-timers running back Marshall Faulk and cornerback Deion Sanders almost certain to gain approval, essentially three spots are left.

The other 15 finalists include running back Jerome Bettis, receivers Andre Reed, Tim Brown and Cris Carter, tight end Shannon Sharpe, center Dermontti Dawson, tackle Willie Roaf, defensive ends Richard Dent, Charles Haley and Chris Doleman, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and NFL Films patriarch Ed Sabol.

"I haven't been an individual accolades type person," Martin told Myers. "But I have found myself thinking about the Hall of Fame more. I think that it speaks to the intangible qualities that I like to be associated with my name.

"To even be in consideration for the Hall of Fame, you've done a little more than just performed on the football field. It speaks to your dedication, to hard work, the level of competition, the way you compete. Even being mentioned is very humbling to me."

Curtis Martin, Andre Reed are HOF finalists

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
1:10
PM ET
All three Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists with AFC East ties have advanced to the final round of the selection process.

New York Jets and New England Patriots running back Curtis Martin, Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed and brief Miami Dolphins receiver Cris Carter are among 15 modern-era finalists for Canton.

The stars of the class are defensive back Deion Sanders and running back Marshall Faulk, who are in their first year of eligibility along with running back Jerome Bettis.

Other finalists include receiver Tim Brown, tight end Shannon Sharpe, center Dermontti Dawson, defensive linemen Richard Dent, Chris Doleman and Cortez Kennedy, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.

Linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter were selected as senior committee nominees in the summer.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

AFC EAST SCOREBOARD