NFC North: Richard Dent

NFC North links: Fewer kickoffs for Hester

June, 6, 2012
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Chicago Bears

With the coaching staff looking to add a special offensive package featuring Devin Hester, the Bears plan to cut down on his kickoff returns in favor of punt-return duty, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Bears and Packers will add a new facet to their rivalry June 18 when current and former players from both sides -- including Mike Ditka, Richard Dent, Mason Crosby and Lynn Dickey -- hit the links at Medinah Country Club for the "Rivalry Cup."

Detroit Lions

Despite suffering two concussions in a two-month span last season, running back Jahvid Best is eager to get back to full speed -- and not worried about another head injury. "There's no real point to thinking about it," said Best, who has not yet been cleared for contact. "I mean, I'm not impaired or anything."

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham tells the Detroit Free Press that he'll occasionally move Ndamukong Suh from his customary spot at left defensive tackle to right defensive tackle in an effort to boost Suh's sack totals.

The Lions brought back receiver Maurice Stovall, who caught one pass in 15 games last season, on a one-year contract and cut receiver Jared Karstetter.

Green Bay Packers

Defensive end Mike Neal said the four-game suspension levied against him by the NFL was for his use of Adderall, a drug used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. He's also battled obsessive-compulsive disorder, he tells the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers talks about his "obsessively competitive" attitude, last season's disappointing end and more in a Q&A with Tyler Dunne.

Minnesota Vikings

Receiver Percy Harvin, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and linebacker Chad Greenway, who missed some time last week due to a family matter, both participated in organized team activities Tuesday, the Vikings' official site reported.

The Vikings signed A.J. Love, an undrafted rookie wide receiver from South Florida.
We spent plenty of time in recent days discussing the tough road for wide receivers making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In the process, we ignored where the selection committee has turned its attention: pass-rushers.

Not one receiver made the last cut to five modern-day finalists in Saturday's balloting in Indianapolis. But former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman became the third consecutive NFC North pass-rusher to earn enshrinement, following Richard Dent in 2011 and John Randle in 2010. Former Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter again failed to make the cut, a victim of the perceived value between pass-rushers and wide receivers.

[+] EnlargeVikings defensive end Chris Doleman
AP Photo/NFL PhotosNot only was Chris Doleman a sack specialist, but the former Vikings star is also among the NFL career leaders in fumble recoveries.
At least one pass-rusher has won election in each of the past five years. Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas were part of the 2009 class, and Fred Dean was in the class of 2008.

Doleman's 150.5 career sacks rank fourth in NFL history, behind Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160). Smith and White are both in Canton, and as of Saturday, five of the top eight players with the highest career sack totals have or will be enshrined. Greene, Michael Strahan (eligible in 2013) and the recently retired Jason Taylor (139.5) are the only players who have been left out.

(More on Greene, who didn't even make the cut from 15 finalists to 10, in the coming days.)

I don't want to take anything away from Doleman, who was a pass-rushing force for an extended period in the NFL. His two best seasons -- 21 sacks in 1989 and 15 sacks in 1998 -- came nine years apart. Doleman was part of four teams that finished the season with the NFL's top-ranked defense, recovered the seventh-most fumbles (24) in league history and was an eight-time Pro Bowler.

But with the exception of Greene, it's clear that sack totals are among the most reliable tickets to the Hall of Fame. Minutes after Doleman's election was announced, longtime Twin Cities sports analyst Patrick Reusse (also a colleague of mine at ESPN 1500) tweeted: "Apparently, it's all about sacks, since in his absolute prime, Doleman was 2nd best D-lineman on his team, behind Keith Millard."

To me, the definition of a Hall of Fame player is that he was one of the best of his era. Doleman was named to the NFL's 1990's All-Decade team, along with three other defensive ends. Was he one of the best players of that generation? He was if you accept that pass-rushing is as important as the voting committee considers it.

But enough of that. I'm not going to diminish Doleman's big day by questioning his credentials. There is little doubt he was a great player for a long time in this league.

Yes, the beauty of the annual Hall of Fame announcement is that it produces as much debate afterward as it did beforehand. Doleman is a Hall of Fame player because the voting committee places premium value on his particular skill set. (Again, Greene appears to be the lone exception to that rule.)

Carter isn't in the Hall of Fame because the voting committee doesn't value his position and corresponding statistics nearly as much. There are still only 21 receivers in Canton, the lowest total of any position other than tight end and kicking specialist. That's the deal -- no more and no less.

Quick hits on a travel Sunday

August, 7, 2011
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As three of our teams take Sunday off from training camp, and the Chicago Bears prepare for a night session, let's run through some NFC North hotspots in quick-hitting fashion.

But first, a programming note: I'm heading out to Bears training camp Sunday evening and will be in place for practice over the ensuing three days. That will bring CampTour'11 to within one stop of completion. The tentative plan is to visit the Detroit Lions during the week of Aug. 14, but I'll confirm that with you as soon as I know for sure myself. Onward. ...

Item: The Chicago Bears appear set to replace Johnny Knox in their starting lineup with newly signed veteran Roy Williams, reports Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Comment: Knox was the Bears' leading receiver by yardage last season, but there was always an undercurrent of doubt about his comfort level in the offense. Williams played in the same scheme while in Detroit, but he is six seasons removed from a 1,000-yard performance. Is it reasonable to expect him to be more productive in 2011 than Knox was last season?

Item: Richard Dent's Hall of Fame acceptance speech was 2,387 words.
Comment: Compared to Shannon Sharpe's speech, Dent's went by in a blink of an eye. Sharpe's speech went 3,768 words.

Item: The Lions' offensive line is in rough shape, as Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com notes.
Comment: Left tackle Jeff Backus hasn't practiced because of a torn pectoral muscle. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has missed most of the past week because of soreness in his surgically repaired knee. Backup Jason Fox is sidelined by a foot injury. The Lions still appear confident that Backus will be ready to start the regular season, but the Cherilus injury is troublesome and there is no denying the Lions are missing some valuable chemistry-building time this summer.

Item: The Lions moved new linebacker Stephen Tulloch to the middle position during Saturday's practice.
Comment: There is every reason to believe Tulloch will remain there, with DeAndre Levy at one outside position and Justin Durant at the other. It's an unquestioned upgrade.

Item: The Green Bay Packers' Family Night practice was canceled after 20 plays because of weather.
Comment: That's 20 more plays than the Bears ran at their Family Night affair on Friday. This was the only practice of the entire summer that was exposed to weather; all other workouts can be moved indoors if needed. It's the third time in four years that Family Night has been cut short or canceled, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.

Item: Packers quarterback Matt Flynn could increase his value as a 2012 free agent with a strong preseason performance, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Comment: That's one reason I think coach Mike McCarthy really wants to keep No. 3 quarterback Graham Harrell on his roster this season. Flynn could leave the Packers without a proven backup if he signs elsewhere next year.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings had more fans at their Family Night (9,145) than ever before.
Comment: Did they think Brett Favre would finally make a training camp appearance?

Richard Dent HOF enshrinement speech

August, 6, 2011
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Richard DentJason Miller/Getty ImagesFour-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Dent was a Super Bowl MVP for the Bears.
Hall of Fame enshrinement speech for defensive end Richard Dent, who starred for the Bears from 1983-93. He also played for the 49ers, Colts and Eagles.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You know, I grew up in a time where a man always said, I have a dream, and that man was Martin Luther King. And as a kid growing up at that time listening to him all I could do is dream. I wanted to be someone special that my mother and my father and my family looked up to. I wanted to be someone that, you know, I enjoyed playing a game, but then again I enjoyed working and just trying to take care of myself.

When you've got seven brothers and one sister and you're number six out of nine, there's not much left over for you. When you ask for food, my dad would tell you a burger's only going to last for a second. You don't need anything. I don't have a dollar for you.

Richard Dent went to work and tried to find himself. It was tough. Not in my wildest dream that I thought I'd be here. When you have dreams, it's very tough to say that you can do everything by yourself. It's all about other people. None of us can get anywhere by ourselves.

I had a friend of mine by the name of Scott Dean who gave up the band to help me to stay in school and helped me to pursue my dream. I had a young lady by the name of Ms. Sandy Payton. Ms. Payton and I used to hang out in her store when I was eight years old, and she decided to give me a job because she knew that I was taking things. It was a clothing store, so she taught me a lot about business, so she gave me something to look forward to.

There was another lady by the name of Ms. Mary Knight. Ms. Knight's about 93 years old. Ms. Knight, you know, you took care of my mother. My mother and I and took care of people, raised people, raised people in our community, and I commend you so much, Ms. Knight, I appreciate your love. I appreciate you coming here to celebrate this with us.

There is, also a guy by the name of William Lester that told my mother, look, I'm going to try to do something for him. Because I know he would want to leave the state of Georgia, because wasn't taking the place of Georgia.

When I grew up I used to watch Claude Humphrey, and I used to watch Tommy Nobis, and Hank Aaron, and Mohamed Ali, so as a kid, I loved Claude Humphrey and didn't know I was going to go to Tennessee State. I took a little piece of Claude, and little piece of Mohammed Ali and said I am going to raise some hell. So from there, William Lester, like coach said, he dropped me off. Tennessee State wanted three other friends of mine from Murphy High School. Murphy High School guys would you stand up? Chuck, I appreciate you guys. You know, Coach Lester dropped me off and you know we finished school August 6. I was at Tennessee State August 8, and before you know it, I was working at Sunbeam Bread August 9th and in summer school.

But, you know, that was important to me. It was important to me that William Lester and I moved out of the neighborhood, And Coach Lester gave me a ride for two years in a row. Between him and his wife, they gave me a ride and allowed me to walk about a mile home, but yet I didn't want to transfer. I came in the game late. And William Lester and his family, you know, he died a couple years ago.

We had a chance to do this at the Georgia Hall of Fame, and I just want to say thank you because if it weren't for him, I couldn't be here today. I wouldn't be in Chicago, and I'd have never gotten to Tennessee. So thank you there.

Also, the first guy out of Atlanta, Georgia, out of Atlanta public school for the Hall of Fame, the first player out of the state, you know, I just couldn't believe it. What, 100 something years that one could do such a thing, but that's what took place.

So my Tennessee State people, are you out there? I love you all, because my Tennessee State people shaped me, you know, loved me. I appreciate the band coming out and it was nothing like going to big blue. Big Blue was awesome.

All the guys that I played with there, I appreciate you guys coming out. Aron Ford, Joe Adams, John Smith, and if you don't mind, I would love for you guys to reach on out and give my coach, give your coach, you might have been a student or you might have been any alumni, I'd love for everybody to just stand and give Coach Gilliam a hand for all that he's done in the last 35 to 40 years. A man that had a record of 254 wins, 93 ties, 15 losses, sent over 147 guys to the pros, had a 1948 undefeated team in Indiana, and '45. First black quarterback, first black backfield.

Let me tell you, you don't meet this kind of person too often. I used to hate this person, but I learned to love him (Coach Gilliam). You know what I mean? I learned to love him because he shaped me and he made things work for me. Coach, thank you, Coach. Thank you, thank you.

Dr. Frederick Humphries, our former president, I'd like to say hello to you, doc. Thank you for coming out. Paula, our new president, thank you for bringing the band out. I know it cost you a lot. We are the first, and well, I should say I am the first for Tennessee State, and I really appreciate your love and I appreciate you coming out and bringing the kids out.

Craig Gilliam is coach's son, and Craig is first guy that taught me how to breakdown films. Taught me how to, you know, sink in on ballplayers. Craig, I'd like to say thanks, and I appreciate your love. Thank you a lot, Craig. Thank you a lot, baby.

There are two other guys that I should say I stand on your shoulders, and that's Claude Humphrey and "Too Tall" Jones. I think "Too Tall" is out here somewhere. "Too Tall" and Mr. Humphries, Claude Humphrey I want to say thank you because there wouldn't be no me without you.

I used to get in a little trouble in college back in the day. And there was a gentleman by the name of Dean Murrell. Dean Murrell and Ms. Murrell were husband and wife, and they were the Dean of the school.
Ms. Murrell, I want to say thank you. Please stand, thank you, Ms. Murrell. Thank you for your time, for Dean who is not here anymore, but thank you.

Also I'd like to say thanks to some guys that I started the game with, Jim Osborne and Emery Moorehead, and Neil Anderson, Al Fontenot. And I'd like to say thanks I like that '85 team out there. I know I've got that Chicago '85 team. Where you at? Please give me a little love. There they are. There they are, thank you. Derek Benson, Tyrone Keys, Mike Richardson, Emery Moorehead, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, love you, Steve. Steve, I hope to see you up here some time. You were the heart of the defense, and you made it work for us.

Most important of all, it's a guy by the name of Jimbo Covert that I had to lineup and practice against day in and day out. He made the game easy for me, because I knew I wasn't going to face a guy like him in the game. But me and Jimbo, we definitely pushed each other to make each other the best. Walter was great for a long time. He led rushers for a long time. Jimbo I look forward to seeing you on the stage. I love you brother, thank you.
The guy that found me was a guy by the name of Bill Tobin. I was so skinny when I came in the league. I was 228 pounds. I had bad teeth and I didn't know what was going to take place. But, Bill, appreciate your love, Bill. Please stand. Thank you. Yeah, I know you wanted me to go higher, I went lower, but that's all right. We're here.

Dale Haupt was our defensive line coach. Coach Haupt, thank you for coming and your family. Appreciate you. That's Mr. Drill Sargeant, guys, Mr. Drill Sargeant.

John Levra, Coach Levra thank you for coming, too. Thank you a lot.

Also, you know, I love to thank the Chicago fans and the people in Chicago. You know, it's such a great place to play. It's where the game started. There's not a better place to play. It means so much to me to get a chance to play there where a guy like Walter Payton, and a guy like Dick Butkus, and a broad shoulder like the city of Chicago. It was a pleasure to get a chance to entertain them on Sunday to allow us to come into their home and have so much fun.

Thank the 49ers and the Eagles and the Colts also for giving me a chance to come and play with those folks.
My dad, dad, I know you're sitting there. Thank you, Dad, because you taught me some things about hard work. You know, I used to bump a lot of clothes with you and click a lot of clocks, and I'm just glad that you didn't allow me to go to jail with you that day either when we went fishing and you didn't have a license anymore. The guy told you to follow him, and we went another route. Thank you, Dad, thank you, because I was seven and my brother was six. Who knows what was going to happen in Covington, Georgia, if you know Covington, Georgia, you know.

Obviously, my mother was my heart. And I tell you, I couldn't be here without her. Everybody else were daddy's boys, I was mama's boy. I'm so thankful to be here. I wish my mother was here, but obviously not. My sister, Brenda, my brother Naji, and Johnny, and Steve, you know, thank you guys because you guys had that band back in the day.

In the '60s, if you had a lot of kids, everybody wanted to be the next Michael Jackson group, and hell, it didn't happen, but I went and cut some grass.

Brothers, thank you, guys. Thank you over there, my brothers. Thank you. Thank you a lot.
You know, my two daughters, Mary, Sarah, I love you to death. My son, R.J., you guys got this legacy, and I look forward to you guys to take it on with the Make a Dent Foundation. Angie Sandborg who has been my mother in Chicago, thank you, Angie, for helping me out, because nobody can do anything alone. You have to have some type of support mechanism.

When I tell kids don't look at me as a player. If you're going to think of me, you look at Mr. Dent, you take the first letter in my first name is dreaming, you must dream. You must dream and you must be dedicated to proceed with anything in life. Okay, when you dream, you have to get up and do something about it.

The letter E, you have to be educated to figure out what to do, how to do and when to do. The letter N, you represent your family, your name, your team, where you came from, whoever. And the letter T is, you know, you're going to get knocked down one day, folks.

But you got to get back up and you've got to try again. These challenges were tough for me here today. I don't have a lot of time to tell you how long it took to get me here. But I took those four letters and I was destined to make something of myself, of my community, and my friends, and my loved ones, everybody to appreciate.

I'd like to thanks to some people that are not here anymore that are important to my life also. Obviously my mother, Dwayne Roberts, Brian Howard, a buddy of mine named Bruce Walker who taught me the pass rush to move in Tennessee State. Steve Moore who played against in the Super Bowl. We were both rookies coming out of it. And obviously a guy named Fred Washington who was just at the Bears for a short time who I became to love.

A guy like Todd Bell who both of us saw ourselves the same. Todd was a great man. Obviously, the late Dave Duerson and the late Drew Hill.

But the guy who I tried to pattern myself on was the late great Walter Payton. Walter was the best of all. I loved watching this man go to work. Also I'd like to congratulate the class of 2011. Congratulations, brothers. I look forward to being in this house.

As a kid, you look at some of these guys left to right, I've watched these guys as a little one and never thought everything in sports I'd dream and I'd seen myself accomplish, but I never thought about being in the Hall of Fame. This kid I had a chance to meet one time, and he told me, hey, brother, keep doing what you're doing, you'll get there one day. The leader just started.

Also, I'd like to thank all the people at the Hall of Fame for the festivities, and putting this on. Like I told my friends last night, it's time to party. It's time to drop it like it's hot.

I have to thank my buddy, M.J., my buddy at Luke Capital, FirstEnergy and First Communications and the Borris family for putting this party on the for us. Thank you all, love you all, see you down the road.
Former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent will be inducted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And over at ESPNChicago.com, Melissa Isaacson offers a great read on how Dent rose from a skinny eighth-round draft choice to one of the best pass rushers in NFL history.

[+] EnlargeRichard Dent
Getty ImagesRichard Dent went from an eighth-round pick to Hall of Famer, a feat not often repeated.
The Bears had a second-round grade on Dent, but he was available at the No. 203 overall position in 1983 mostly because he weighed about 215 pounds. He put on another 40 pounds after the Bears helped him identify some dental issues, and he was off to the races.

Isaacson’s story got me wondering: How rare is it for an eighth-round draft choice to make it to the Hall of Fame?

Thanks to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, we can pass along the answer. Dent will be the lowest-drafted player enshrined whose career began after the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

(Over that time period, there have been three undrafted players elected: Jim Langer, Warren Moon and John Randle.)

Obviously, highly drafted players are more likely to get extended opportunities to play. But more than anything, I think this information shows that teams get the draft right more often than we might be willing to give them credit for. Below is the breakdown of where the NFL’s post-merger Hall of Famers were drafted:

  • First round: 43 players
  • Second round: 11
  • Third round: 5
  • Fourth round: 3
  • Fifth round: 1
  • Sixth round: 0
  • Seventh round: 1
  • Eighth round: 1
  • Ninth-20th: 0
  • Undrafted: 3

A complete list of every Hall of Fame player’s draft status can be found here. It should be noted that one of Dent's 2011 classmates, linebacker Chris Hanburger, was drafted in the 18th round in 1965 -- five years before the merger.

With the draft now limited to seven rounds, I think we can safely say Dent will be the last eighth-round pick to be enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
We've been casting a skeptical eye since last week on the possibility of the Chicago Bears actually playing their Aug. 7 preseason opener in the annual Hall of Fame game. Wednesday, the NFL appeared ready to relent.

League executive vice president Jeff Pash told reporters that he still hopes the game will be played but admitted: "It's getting tight. It's getting pretty tight. It would be pretty challenging so that is one of the things we'll have to focus on."

It would be cool for the Bears to play in that game a day after defensive end Richard Dent's enshrinement ceremony. But the logistics just don't seem worth the trouble. The Bears have already delayed the start of their training camp by four days, meaning the earliest they could report to Olivet Nazarene University is Tuesday. In reality, continuing uncertainty about final ratification of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) makes it impossible to predict when the Bears might get to camp.

Bears tailback Matt Forte and placekicker Robbie Gould have both expressed concern about playing in a preseason game with less than two weeks of training camp to prepare. As each day goes by, the odds increase that the Hall of Fame game will be canceled and the Bears will report to camp along with the rest of the league around Aug. 1. Stay tuned.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

On Monday, we noted the Detroit Lions have enough salary-cap space to sign free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha if they choose. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press suggests the Lions won't choose to.

Birkett reports the Lions want to add a cornerback via free agency but doesn't think they can break the bank considering upcoming bonuses due to defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, tailback Jahvid Best and left tackle Jeff Backus. The Lions also would like to sign defensive end Cliff Avril to a long-term deal, according to Birkett.

Of course, much could change once we get the final details of the new collective bargaining agreement and find out exactly what Asomugha is looking for. Sometimes, suggestions that a player is too expensive can be viewed more as a negotiating tool than a statement of fact. But as we discussed Monday, if a bidding war develops, the Lions would have to sacrifice several other facets of their roster to have a legitimate chance to sign Asomugha.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Free-agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch could be a target of the Lions and could push DeAndre Levy to outside linebacker, notes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
  • From the Chicago Tribune: "Former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent has selected his college coach Joe Gilliam as his presenter when Dent is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 6."
  • Former Bears tailback Gayle Sayers believes the NFL should have done more to help tight end John Mackey, who developed dementia after his playing career. Fred Mitchell of the Tribune has more.
  • Time is running short on maintaining a schedule that would allow the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game to be played, notes the Tribune.
  • Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton rode on a Navy C-130 with quarterback Matt Flynn last week, writes Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • The new Metrodome roof could undergo a test inflation this week, according to Kevin Duchschere of the Star Tribune. It's still undetermined whether the playing surface will have to be replaced for this season, which would cost about $600,000.
  • Some political leaders in St. Paul would like to see the proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium benefit the city and surrounding suburbs more than it currently would, according to Frederick Melo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
SportsNation asked you/me/us to pick the most deserving Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate from a group of five former players who finished their careers with more than 100 sacks.

The results were clear: At week's end, two-thirds of nearly 14,000 votes went to Kevin Greene. A few comments suggested the disparity could be a reflection of our current readership levels -- Greene is currently the Green Bay Packers' outside linebackers coach -- but never, ever, ever, never would I believe Packers fans would stuff the ballot on that connection alone.

Greene's resume speaks for itself. His 160 career sacks are the third-highest total since the NFL began tracking them in 1982. Both players above him, and six players below him on the NFL's top 100 sack leaders, are enshrined.

A few of you made impassioned arguments for longtime Minnesota Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman, whose 150.5 career sacks places him No. 4 on the NFL's all-time list. I'll pass two of them along for consideration on the floor:

Opabina wrote that Doleman was more deserving than a player who will be inducted this summer, former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent:
Greene should get in, but I voted for Doleman because he is much more deserving than Richard Dent, who got in this year. Doleman and Dent played the same number of seasons (15, all but two overlapping) and in the same division, so the caliber of their opponents was essentially the same, but Doleman has 13 more career sacks and 243 more career tackles than Dent. Dent was Super Bowl MVP, but any number of players on the Bears defense were equally deserving of the award, and Doleman held the NFC single-season sack record for 12 years before Strahan broke it. People also forget that Doleman played LB his first two seasons and had just 3 1/2 sacks during those years, so he would probably have ~160-165 career sacks if he spent his entire career at DE (and maybe 190+ if he played as long as Smith). He has been criticized for supposedly ignoring the run, but if that's true, then how come he averaged more tackles per season than Bruce Smith and just 9 fewer per season than Reggie White, who played on the left side, where defending the run is more important? And anyone who downgrades Doleman's performance because he played with John Randle has to acknowledge that Dent played with Dan Hampton.
Supavike1, in fact, thought Doleman's career was more balanced than Greene's:
[H]ere is the bigger picture, which supports Doleman before Greene when you consider more than sacks.

Greene:

160 sacks, 669 total tackles, 23 forced fumbles, 5 INT, 1 TD

Doleman:

150.5 sacks, 914 total tackles, 44 forced fumbles, 8 INT, 2 TDs

I think 240 more tackles and double the number of FFs makes up for 9.5 fewer sacks.

Y'all have a great holiday weekend. I'll be taking some family time next week and will be back with you July 11.
Jared Allen and Julius PeppersUS PresswireWill Canton make room for predominant pass-rushers Jared Allen and Julius Peppers?
Another in a series on NFC North players whose career trajectories put them on a path to consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

NFL teams value pass-rushing more than any skill outside of quarterbacking, and here in the NFC North we have two of the best of this generation. Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (89 career sacks) and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (83) have outright dominated many games during their careers. But is either on track for future enshrinement in Canton, Ohio?

My short answer: It could go either way.

Sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982. In reviewing how Hall of Fame voters have judged pass-rushers since then, a few tenets seem clear:

  1. Sack totals alone, no matter how high, don't guarantee enshrinement. Otherwise, linebacker Kevin Greene (currently a Green Bay Packers assistant coach) and defensive end Chris Doleman would have been elected a long time ago. Greene has 160 career sacks, the third-most in NFL history. Doleman's 150.5 rank No. 5. They are two of 25 players with 100 or more career sacks, and eight of those 25 are in the Hall of Fame.
  2. The first chart is a list of the eight Hall of Fame defensive linemen and linebackers whose careers took place during the sack era. I included Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Howie Long and New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, whose careers began in 1981, and eliminated Bears linebacker Mike Singletary because pass-rushing wasn't much of a factor in his enshrinement. All but Long had at least 100 sacks. So although 100-plus sacks doesn't guarantee enshrinement, it's almost always a prerequisite. There is every reason to believe that Peppers, who is 31, and Allen, 29, can and will pass that milestone.
  3. Voters clearly perform a subjective judgment to determine which players with high sack totals deserve enshrinement. Generally speaking, players who seem classified as "pure" pass-rushers, including Greene and Doleman, face a higher bar than those who were more generally regarded as "havoc-wreakers." Examples: Long, Andre Tippett, Taylor, Rickey Jackson and John Randle.

Given their career arcs, both Peppers and Allen might have to justify a "havoc-wreaker" enshrinement. They've got good chances to break the 100-sack barrier, but how much further will they go? Peppers could reach Randle-Taylor-Richard Dent territory by averaging 10 sacks a year for the next five seasons. I would say that 50 sacks between the ages of 31 and 36 represents the high end of what Peppers might achieve.

Allen is 2 years younger, and a similar 50-sack run over the next five years could put him in the same territory by 34. That's a reasonable projection, but I wonder whether voters will discard Allen into the "pure pass-rusher" category that currently houses Greene, Doleman, Leslie O'Neal (137.5 career sacks), Simeon Rice (122) and Clyde Simmons (121.5).

One gauge to consider is ESPN.com's positional power rankings, although I recognize that it simply represents the thoughts of eight slappy bloggers. (But remember, Hall of Fame election is determined by 44 other slappy writers and broadcasters.) Allen was rated as the No. 4 pass-rusher but didn't receive a single vote for best defensive player.

For what it's worth, Peppers ranked No. 8 on the overall defensive player list. And I found it interesting last week that when asked to name the NFL's best player at the moment, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher quickly responded: "Peppers."

In an admittedly subjective question, I ask: If Peppers and Allen finish their careers with similar sack totals, who is more likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame? I'm going to guess Peppers, barring a dramatic career arc adjustment for either player.

Comparing current players to Hall of Famers is only part of the discussion, however. As we noted in our post on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, candidates also must be compared to their contemporaries. In theory, only those who dominated their respective eras should be enshrined.

Our next two charts address that topic.

Since he entered the league in 2002, Peppers ranks third in sacks. Allen, meanwhile, has more sacks than any other NFL player since he was drafted in 2004.

So let's say Peppers and Allen finish their careers in the 130-140 sack range. Both will have been among the most productive pass-rushers of their time, but they'll also be "competing" against a number of contemporaries with similar credentials. We of course hope that all deserving players eventually get in, but the definition of "deserving" can be relative.

To that end, it should be noted that defensive end Michael Strahan (141.5 sacks) would seem relatively assured of enshrinement. End/linebacker Jason Taylor (132.5) and Dwight Freeney (94) also will be considered.

Both Peppers and Allen have potential career spans long enough to settle this debate definitively on their own. But as it stands now, with Peppers entering his 10th season and Allen his eighth, we can say they've done enough to enter the Hall of Fame conversation. Both have more work to do, and it needs to be at the same standard they've set thus far.

Earlier: Rodgers has put himself in on the path toward Canton.

A tough day for the Bears

February, 18, 2011
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A jarring sight awaited if you happened to land on the home page of the Chicago Bears’ website Friday. At the far right was a video of former defensive end Richard Dent discussing his recent election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On the left was the news that former safety Dave Duerson had been found dead at age 50. The cause of Duerson’s death has not been reported.

The Bears drafted Dent and Duerson in 1983. They were teammates for seven years, including in 1985 when the Bears won Super Bowl XX. One is heading toward the greatest personal achievement an NFL player can reach. The other suffered a shocking, untimely and deeply-felt death.

Duerson was one of the brains behind the Bears’ 46 defense and, through his work with Notre Dame and the NFL Players Association, remained a part of the Chicago sports fabric after retiring. His death brought a harsh conclusion to what has been an extended 25-year celebration of the 1985 team. Our thoughts go out to his ex-wife, Alicia, and his four children.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Defensive end Richard Dent retired from the NFL after the 1997 season. At the time, he had more sacks than all but two players in the NFL's history of recording the statistic. So why did it take until 2011 for Dent to get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, who is one of 44 voters on the selection committee, attempts to explain why. According to Pompei, the biggest objection he heard over the years was that Dent played in only four Pro Bowls. As Pompei goes on to explain, Dent was a legitimate snub from at least two other Pro Bowls in which he had better sack numbers than the players who were elected ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Dent apparently also suffered from the "stigma" of being on a defense with stars Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary. "In truth," Pompei writes, "he was the primary playmaker on one of the most dominant defenses in history and a primary reason the Bears won so much. The Bears won 72 percent of the games in which he had a sack. When he didn't have one, they won 39 percent."

That sounds like the definition of "long overdue" to me.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Dent said Monday that former Tennessee State coach Joe Gilliam Sr., or his daughter Mary, will introduce him at this summer's ceremony. Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times has more.
  • Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com recalls the Bears drafting Dent as an eighth-round steal.
  • We should learn the fate of the Metrodome roof Thursday. Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune reports an engineering firm will recommend its complete replacement at the cost of $18 million.
  • The Minnesota Vikings want to use a lottery scratch-off game to help fund a new stadium, according to The Associated Press.
  • The Vikings aren't raising ticket prices in 2011 but the first payment on their season tickets is due Feb. 23, a week before a lockout would commence, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the Green Bay Packers: "When training camp opens up for the 2011 season, they arguably will be the most talented team in the National Football League."
  • This offseason forces scheduling uncertainty for normally tightly scheduled Packers coach Mike McCarthy, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "The Packers used an aggressive game plan [in Super Bowl XLV] and McCarthy trusted [Aaron] Rodgers to be smart with his decision making. The quarterback responded by passing for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Packers ran the ball just 13 times."
  • The return of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch in 2011 will be a boon to the Detroit Lions' defense, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh tells Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Lions won't use a franchise tag this offseason, notes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.

Cris Carter again falls short

February, 5, 2011
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DALLAS -- I wish I had an explanation for what many of you are already asking: What is keeping former Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

When Carter retired in 2002, he ranked second on the NFL's all-time list of receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130). He was one of the top receivers of his generation, but on Saturday he missed the selection committee's first cut for the second consecutive year. Former Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed made the first cut but was dropped after the second.

As we've noted before, Carter has several factors working against him that are out of his control.

First, the receiver position is not as valued as some others. Only 21 are currently enshrined.

Second, Carter seems to have been caught in a glut of receivers each year. Former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown was also a finalist this season, and Sports Illustrated's Peter King -- who is also a voter -- tweeted: "My sense is Reed, Carter, Brown canceling each other out. A shame, but I can tell you it's an honest disagreement by voters."

If that's the case, then it should just be a matter of time for Carter -- just as it was for former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, who finally got his call Saturday.

Indeed, Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com -- another voter -- tweeted: "My guess? All 10 of the "snubbed" candidates from this season will be in the HOF in the next three years."

Richard Dent finally gets his due

February, 5, 2011
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DALLAS -- Saturday was old hat for Richard Dent. For six of the past seven years, he sat idle while the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee passed on his candidacy. He passed through the expected phases of disappointment: From anger to frustration to confusion to tranquility.

[+] EnlargeRichard Dent
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesOver 13 years, Richard Dent recorded 137.5 sacks and forced 37 fumbles.
It seemed hard to believe that any man of Dent's generational impact would be excluded indefinitely from the game's highest individual honor. So Dent jetted off to Las Vegas for a weekend of golf. What the heck? If it happened this year, great. If not, well, Vegas is nice this time of year.

Dent's patience was rewarded Saturday when he finally received his invitation. Coincidentally, it came 25 years after he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XX.

"I'm just so thankful," Dent said. "My daughter Mary called me and everything was happening just at that time, and I kind of went into tears. ... It's very appreciated and I'm very happy. It's been a long time coming."

Indeed, Dent was one of the most dangerous pass rushers of his era, beginning with the Chicago Bears in 1983 and finishing with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997. He was part of two Super Bowl champions, retiring with the NFL's third-highest sack total (137.5) and the second-most forced fumbles by a defensive lineman (37) at the time.

Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who worked as part of the NFL Network crew that announced Saturday's elections, suggested Dent transformed the game as one of the first ultra-athletic defensive ends who were just as comfortable rushing the passer as they were reaching up for an interception or poking the ball loose from the quarterback.

"I got a sense of that from watching [former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor]," Dent said. "He was the only other guy that was quick enough that he could decide whether to hit the guy or take the ball from him. If you're in it for yourself, you just care about sacks. But I kind of thought like him, that taking the ball away was the best thing because it got you off the field and getting turnovers."

In his most memorable game, Dent forced two fumbles and was credited with 1.5 sacks in the Bears' 46-10 Super Bowl XX victory over the New England Patriots. He is one of three defensive linemen in history to win MVP honors in the Super Bowl.

"You can get sacks," he said, "but if you want to take your game to the next level, it's all about turnovers."

Hall voters first tapped several other pass rushers from Dent's era, including Fred Dean, Bruce Smith and John Randle. The voting committee works in mysterious ways, but there was little doubt it would eventually happen for Dent. This was his year.

Note: Dent is the 27th Bears players to be elected to the Hall of Fame, the highest number among NFL franchises.
DALLAS -- The Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee will gather here Saturday morning to determine the class of 2011. Three players with significant NFC North ties are finalists: Receiver Cris Carter, defensive end Richard Dent and defensive end Chris Doleman.

Handicapping their chances for enshrinement requires the acknowledgment that two other finalists, cornerback Deion Sanders and running back Marshall Faulk, are widely considered to be locks for election. That leaves 13 men competing for three spots, and a tremendous campaign is under way to push NFL Films founder Ed Sabol into one of those positions.

Regardless of the politics involved, let's stay in our lane (for now) and consider our neck of the woods. The announcement is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

Carter
Carter
Cris Carter
Key qualification:
When he retired after the 2002 season, he ranked second on the NFL's all-time list of receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130).
Working against him: Receivers historically have a tougher time than at other positions. There are currently 21 receivers in the Hall of Fame, fewer than running backs (27), quarterbacks (23), offensive linemen (35) and defensive linemen (28). I refuse to believe that Carter's at-times caustic personality has impacted anyone's view of his on-field performance. But you never know for sure. Carter also will be competing with fellow receiver Tim Brown on this ballot.

Dent
Dent
Richard Dent
Key qualification: When he retired after the 1995 season, his 137.5 sacks ranked third all-time in the NFL, thanks in part to a run of five consecutive seasons with 10 or more sacks.
Working against him: There is nothing from a statistical standpoint to argue for Dent's continued exclusion. But for whatever reason, he has been passed over by other 100-sack players like Fred Dean, Bruce Smith and John Randle in recent years. This year, he is competing against two others in Doleman and Charles Haley. Sometimes players get lost in the maze. In the end, you hope that voters decide Dent has waited long enough.

Doleman
Doleman
Chris Doleman
Key qualification: You might not realize it, but Doleman's 150 career sacks rank fourth all-time in the NFL. Only Smith, Reggie White and Kevin Greene had more.
Working against him: He's competing with two other high-sack players in Dent and Haley who have more ballot tenure. Also, Greene's exclusion demonstrates that voters don't always reward sack totals in a vacuum.
Three former players with significant NFC North ties were among 15 finalists announced Sunday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2011.

Defensive ends Richard Dent and Chris Doleman, along with receiver Cris Carter, were on the list. They were part of an original working list of 113 modern-era nominees.

A minimum of four of the final 15, and a maximum of seven, will be elected during voting next month.

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