Kennedy HOF finalist; Craig left off

Five first-time finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame pushed San Francisco 49ers great Roger Craig off the list this year.

That's a bad sign for his long-term Hall hopes because there's already a backlog of Hall-worthy players. Former St. Louis Cardinals coach Don Coryell also did not make the list of finalists this year after appearing previously.

Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf and Deion Sanders made the list of 17 finalists for the first time. I thought former Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams would make the list. The fact that he did not shows how high the bar for enshrinement has risen.

Seattle Seahawks great Cortez Kennedy is back on the list of 17 this year after making the final 10 last season. I hold the Hall of Fame vote for the Seattle market and will again present Kennedy's case to voters this year. I consider Kennedy to have been the most dominant all-around tackle of the 1990s. No interior defensive lineman dominated against run and pass the way Kennedy did while earning eight Pro Bowl berths from 199o to 2000 (two more than any other defensive tackle earned during that time).

Faulk's inclusion on the list of 17 hardly qualifies as news, and I mean that as a compliment. Very few players in NFL history possessed his specific combination of talents as a runner and receiver.

Bettis also played for the Rams, but he earned his Hall credentials with Pittsburgh. Chris Doleman (49ers) and Richard Dent (49ers) made the list of 17 finalists after playing most of their careers elsewhere.

Former 49ers and Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Charles Haley is back on the list of 17 and will again get strong consideration.

Also on the list of 17: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Hanburger, Andre Reed, Ed Sabol and Shannon Sharpe.

Settling on just five enshrinees, plus two seniors candidates, is a tough task.