NFC West: 2012 HOF enshrinement
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
CANTON, Ohio -- Curtis Martin won his bet to make it through his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech without crying.
Did anyone else?
Martin, in accepting his enshrinement to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, shared details about his life that would wrench the hardest heart: the murders of his grandmother and aunt; the manner in which his father tortured his mother; the time someone held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger seven times, only to have a bullet discharge on the eighth pull, when the gun was pointed elsewhere.
This was as moving a speech as I can recall hearing.
That Martin would survive all this and grow into a man with the wherewithal to nurture his mother to health? That, together, they would forgive his father?
It's a good thing Martin's speech came last. No one could have followed him.
Martin closed by saying he hoped his daughter, when delivering his eulogy years from now, would speak not of the yards he gained, but of the man he became. He hoped she would speak of having sought a man of similar character. He hoped she would, in closing his eulogy, leave mourners with a footnote.
"Oh yeah," she would say, "he was a pretty good football player."
Martin's presenter, retired coach Bill Parcells, spoke of his former player's great balance. Martin's speech showed the same quality. He balanced those emotional reflections with humor. And he showed great wisdom.
Martin busted on fellow enshrinee Willie Roaf for suggesting the Class of 2012 go for pedicures this week. He joked about Cortez Kennedy speaking for so long that God decided to turn off the lights.
Martin again found the right balance when discussing player safety issues, particularly whether he'd feel OK about his own child playing the game, were Martin to have a son.
Two previously enshrined Hall of Famers -- I could not identify them from a distance -- rose and applauded when Martin provided a thoughtful answer. Martin said he never sought football or loved it, but he learned life lessons from it through Parcells, through his former high school coach and through experiences on the field.
"If kids can learn what I learned from playing the game," Martin said in words to that effect, "I'd let him play. It would be worth the risk."
Martin rushed for 102 yards and the winning touchdown in his first regular-season NFL game. Parcells, upon seeing reporters gather around Martin's locker for postgame interviews, let it be known Martin was merely a "one-game wonder."
Before too long, "one-game wonder" would give way to "Boy Wonder" as Parcells' preferred nickname for Martin. The more flattering moniker survives to this day, for good reason. Martin opened his career with 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, an NFL record shared by another Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders.
Martin turned out to be a pretty good football player, all right, and so much more.
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.
Chris Doleman and Cortez Kennedy in particular have stressed the importance strong parenting played in their lives and, ultimately, in their successes on the field.
They've spoken of parents who held them accountable when it might have been easier let them off the hook.
Doleman's father had one rule: Finish whatever you start. Signing up for a sport or anything meant seeing it through no matter what.
Kennedy thanked his father for forcing him to cut the grass at 5 a.m. after doing a poor job the first time.
Kennedy reflected on his mother forcing him to quit the football team in high school when his grades slipped. When Kennedy's former teammates won a state title without him, Kennedy's mother went to the game and sent a postcard home.
"Wish you were here," it read.
Running away from difficulties might have shielded Doleman and Kennedy from short-term failures, but the lasting lessons would have been negative ones. Hats off to their parents.
CANTON, Ohio -- New Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman retired from the NFL following the 1999 season.
Doleman joked Friday that he'd still be playing if recently adopted NFL rules scaling back training camps had been in place during his career.
Another Hall of Famer, this one speaking informally earlier in the day, said he thought restrictions on contact and practice time would serve older players at the expense of the game. He suspected that was one reason some of the older players serving as labor leaders supported the restrictions.
I asked Doleman for his feelings on another issue dominating NFL headlines off the field: whether the game puts players at undue risk, and whether children should play the game. The video carries his answers.
Stage fright? Hardly.
Butler, 84, soon made it clear he was on his game for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement.
"OK," he said while Pittsburgh Steelers fans cheered, "that's enough."
Butler rose to the occasion. He was poised and measured. He spoke with purpose. His son, John, spoke of Jack Butler's discipline and work ethic. It was clear Butler was in control.
Butler finished his speech with panache when he thanked various family members for attending, then, in a nod to his age, rejoined with, "Heck, I'm thankful I'm here."
They won't be sticking around for Kennedy's speech, however.
The Saints, scheduled to open their exhibition season against the Arizona Cardinals in the same Fawcett Stadium on Sunday, left their seats and disappeared behind the end-zone grandstands once former New Orleans tackle Willie Roaf finished his acceptance speech.
Roaf led off the Hall program. Jack Butler's time is now, followed by Chris Doleman and then Kennedy. Dermontti Dawson and Curtis Martin round out the proceedings.
Kennedy played for the Seattle Seahawks, but he works as an adviser to the Saints. He collected a Super Bowl ring with the Saints following the 2009 season.
CANTON, Ohio -- Willie Roaf's father, Clifton, has just presented the former New Orleans and Kansas City tackle for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The video presentation for Willie Roaf was packed with emotion, especially when Clifton Roaf, his jaw quivering with emotion, called his son his hero.
A quick aside: Clifton Roaf, speaking over lunch Friday, recalled the time his son shut out Hugh Douglas, one of the better defensive ends in the NFL at the time. According to the elder Roaf, Douglas finished with no tackles. When the game ended, Douglas paid tribute to Roaf by crawling off the field. Now that is domination.
That brought the first goosebumps of the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, at least for me.
Butler waited 50 years for his enshrinement. He and his oldest son, John, have been quite visible in Canton over the past few days. They've been so appreciative, so gracious, so humbled.
In speaking with John Butler at a reception Friday night, he said something about getting a couple of football cards featuring his father and giving them to my young sons. A couple of hours passed and that part of our conversation had faded from my mind. It was the sort of thing a lot of people would have said without really meaning it.
Our family left the reception, returning only briefly a couple of hours later in hopes of seeing a couple more Hall of Famers. The younger Butler found us and presented the two football cards -- both signed by Jack Butler, with "2012 HOF" written on them.
I saw Payton and his son at the Gold Jacket Dinner on Friday night. They sat briefly at the table next to ours, but Payton did not stay long. He was seen back at the McKinley Grand Hotel while the dinner proceedings were ongoing. The NFL obviously wants Payton to keep a low profile during his bounty-related absence.
Payton's connections to the program extend beyond the enshrinement of former New Orleans (and Kansas City) tackle Willie Roaf.
Another enshrinee, Cortez Kennedy, has worked for the Saints in an advisory role. Kennedy remains particularly close to Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who was a Seattle Seahawks executive when Kennedy played for that team. Kennedy won a Super Bowl ring with the Saints. He has two NFL families, in other words, and Payton leads one of them when he's not suspended.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement program is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET.
Each Saints player is wearing a black T-shirt with Willie Roaf's No. 77 on the back, a show of support for one of the greatest players in Saints history.
Saints players are seated in direct sunlight on a hot, muggy evening. They've got at least three coolers filled with drinks. Some are using programs to shield their faces from the sun. The Cardinals are presumably relaxing in an air-conditioned hotel.
Neither team's starters will play extensively, this being the exhibition opener for both.
Update: The Cardinals' Daryn Colledge says via Twitter that the Cardinals have recently landed in Canton, meaning they're not yet cooling at their hotel.
I'll be blogging throughout the proceedings, as you might have noticed when this post went live a bit earlier. First, a look at the order for enshrinement and speeches for the program, which begins at 7 p.m. ET:
- Willie Roaf: This one promises to be emotional, as anyone who witness the way Roaf's father, Clifton, hugged him during the Gold Jacket Dinner presentation Friday night. Clifton Roaf is presenting his son. The Hall encourages presenters to limit their comments to eight minutes in duration. That could be tough for the elder Roaf.
- Jack Butler: Butler had to wait a record 50 years for enshrinement. He won't have to wait long Saturday night. The Hall has him going second.
- Chris Doleman: The former Minnesota, Atlanta and San Francisco defensive end offered some thoughts Friday on the state of the game. I hope to share those a bit later.
- Cortez Kennedy: The second career Seahawk to earn enshrinement will have some time to gather his thoughts. He's fourth in the order.
- Dermontti Dawson: One of the greatest interior offensive linemen follows one of the greatest interior defensive linemen.
- Curtis Martin: Bill Parcells is presenting Martin. Parcells could be back as an enshrinee before long. Parcells does have some star power. Having him go last wasn't a bad idea.
Should be a memorable night.
Evert toured the Hall of Fame and overdosed on Pittsburgh Steelers stuff. By the time he encountered the giant mural showing Steelers players dousing then-coach Bill Cowher with Gatorade, he'd had enough.
"I know I shouldn't be that way," Evert said, "but Seahawk fans have always felt like they got screwed over in that one Super Bowl."
They don't have to worry about it Saturday night, although the Steelers do hold a 2-1 edge over the Seahawks in 2012 enshrinees. Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler are joining Kennedy on the dais.
Update: As I'm looking down on Evert's seat, I notice two Steelers fans occupying the seats next to him.
I'll be heading over early to get a feel for what awaits.
Cortez Kennedy and his daughter, Courtney, were seen downstairs at the main hotel here a bit ago. Kennedy seemed relaxed for a man nearing the hour when he'll be giving a speech center stage.
The Hall itself opened early Saturday. A few thoughts after touring the Hall for the first time:
- Cool Cardinals exhibit: One display case features a Pat Tillman jersey, the shiny black Nike shoes Patrick Peterson wore when returning a punt 99 yards for a touchdown to beat the St. Louis Rams in Week 9 last season and the gloves Larry Fitzgerald wore while collecting his 400th career reception against the New York Giants on Nov. 23, 2008. Fitzgerald became the youngest receiver to reach 400 catches.
- Busts are accessible: The Hall features busts for the 267 Hall of Famers already enshrined, plus spaces for the busts honoring 2012 inductees. The busts are arranged by year of enshrinement. They rest on open-air perches, allowing visitors to touch them. The busts were low enough for our kids to pose with them, sometimes almost cheek to cheek. Seeing our boys' heads flanking Dick "Night Train" Lane's bust was a highlight of the visit.
- Interactive video: Touch-screen menus allow visitors to cue up short highlight and documentary packages for various Hall of Famers. These were good, but a little short. We wanted more. Of course, with more than nine million visitors to this point and quite a few coming around the time of enshrinement each year, there isn't time for each person to watch a full-length movie.
- "Madden 12" center: Kids packed this area and ours were initially eager to join in the gaming, but we drew the line on this one. Something seemed wrong about using time at the Hall to play games many kids have at home.
- Homage to Lombardi: The Hall features a sideline player bench used at Lambeau Field for Vince Lomardi's final game as the Green Bay Packers' coach, in 1967. They've wisely got it stowed safely in a display, preventing people from sitting on it.
- Harbaughs making history: Jim Harbaugh's autograph dresses up a game ball from the San Francisco 49ers' game against Harbaugh's brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens last season. The game itself was forgettable from the 49ers' perspective.
All for now. Time to get ready for the festivities Saturday night.
A trip to the hotel bar a couple of hours later found the place mostly empty except for a couple of reporters from Minnesota. I sat down with them and soon discovered Hall of Famer John Randle, Kennedy's teammate on the 1990s All-Decade team, seated across the way. Two-for-two and three full days in Canton still to come.
I'm not much of a drinker -- a six-pack lasts a year in our house -- so when tequila shots appeared unexpectedly on our side of the bar, visions of "Frank the Tank" from Old School came to mind.
My hesitance must have been easy to spot. Randle rose from his chair and looked my way.
"Hey, you in?"
Enjoying the ride(s)
Trip 1 to the elevator produces a five-story ride with Thurman Thomas and his wife, Patti.
Leroy Kelly, Elvin Bethea and Roger Wehrli are along for the ride on a subsequent trip.
By then, my wife, Kim, and our two sons, Derek (10) and Cade (7), have arrived via red-eye flight from Seattle to Cleveland. We'd decided to make this a family trip, a mini-vacation for them, upon learning months earlier that Kennedy had earned enshrinement.
"We were just in the elevator with Gale Sayers!" Derek announced upon entering our room.
Heading to the Hall
The lobby was packed with Hall of Famers, most wearing their gold jackets, as they assemble for bus rides (police escorts included) to the Hall for a dedication ceremony. Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. will be there when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall officials cut red ribbon for the new Pro Football Research and Preservation Center in Wilson's name.
Another chance meeting with Kennedy produces a lucky break. He graciously invites me to ride along in his car, along with Mark, an off-duty police officer from Las Vegas and Kennedy's friend since 1994.
The weather is already sizzling when we arrive, but it doesn't get much cooler than this: Hall of Fame corner Lem Barney, who averaged five picks per season for 11 years with the Detroit Lions, practically intercepts us as we get out of the car. He shakes Kennedy's hand. Mark and I get handshakes, too. Kennedy follows the red carpet to the special seating area for Hall of Famers.
All in the family
Mark and I wind up sitting next to Patti Thomas, Thurman's wife, in the front row of the general-seating area. Sayers and Joe Greene sit across the rope divider about 6 feet away. She's moved when Wilson, 93 and a World War II veteran, delivers a speech marked by self-deprecating humor after initially needing assistance to stand.
The Hall experience can be as much for the families as for the enshrinees themselves.
"I'm his wife and I'm blown away," Patti Thomas said. "These guys that you grow up watching ... my brothers come. They are huge sports fans. They're like kids in a candy shop. They've met 'em all and they're still like that, over and over again. Ninety-five percent of the guys are very outgoing. It's been an amazing thing. What a huge blessing."
Ray Nitschke Luncheon
From the Hall, it's off to the annual initiation luncheon, a chance for the new class to socialize with existing Hall of Famers in a private setting. Goodell is there, as are Hall officials, Class of 2012 presenters and some selection committee members. There are no wives or family members. And when lunch is served, enshrinees head into their own private room. No one else is allowed inside.
A microphone gets passed around, but the current class only listens. What happens beyond that, no one can say for certain.
"Thurman has so much fun when we come," Patti Thomas said. "He tells me his favorite thing of all is the Ray Nitschke Luncheon because it's only Hall of Famers, just the guys in there. And he said that is the coolest event because 'it's just us.' Nobody else is allowed to come in there and he loves it."
A Butler and a dentist
Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler waited 50 years for enshrinement, a record. His son and presenter, John, would give a guy the shirt off his back. John Butler did just that Friday. When one of the Hall of Famers showed up with the wrong shirt -- all were supposed to wear official blue Hall polos -- the younger Butler gave up his.
While the Hall of Famers were enjoying their privacy and camaraderie at the Nitschke luncheon, John Butler and Willie Roaf's father, Clifton, a retired dentist, sat down at the table I'd chosen in our less exclusive luncheon room.
What an honor it was for me, a first-time visitor to Canton, and the two other Hall selectors seated at our table.
I'd approached Jack Butler in the hotel lobby earlier in the day, congratulating him on his enshrinement. With Ted Hendricks, James Lofton and several other Hall of Famers gathering nearby, the elder Butler said, "it's starting to have a meaning to it all."
"It's amazing, just incredible," John Butler said. "You think about it in the past, we would look at his numbers, ever since I was a kid, and say, 'Wow, his numbers match up.' But it's not like an expectation he'll get in. When it happens, it's overwhelming."
Gold Jacket Dinner
Our family purchased tickets and arrived with a group featuring Greene, Dave Casper, Tom Mack and others.
"Is that the ghost-to-the-post guy?" Cade, our youngest, asked later.
That was him. Of course, Casper accomplished much more for the Oakland Raiders than his famed overhead grab for a 42-yard gain against Baltimore on Christmas Eve 1977. A 7-year-old raised on NFL Films drama might not know that yet.
Dozens of previously enshrined Hall of Famers took their turn walking an aisle through guest tables before greeting the 2012 class on stage. My wife heard our oldest, Derek, gasp when Marshall Faulk's name was called.
The boys craned to see Warren Moon make his entrance.
The video highlight packages are what got me.
Dawson pulling from his center position and flattening the same defender twice on one play. Doleman forcing fumble after fumble with blind-side hits on quarterbacks. Kennedy beating the center and then dragging the guard into the backfield to stop a runner in his tracks. Roaf collapsing one side of the formation with devastating power. Martin setting up his runs with patience and accelerating away from trouble. Butler picking off passes, scoring as a receiver and lighting up opponents (I feared Goodell might fine him retroactively).
There were poignant moments, too. The elder Roaf hugged his son and wouldn't let go. When he finally walked away, leaving his son to sport his new jacket alone on the stage, Clifton Roaf squeezed the bridge of his nose between finger and thumb, as if to stop the tears.
The after party
Once the Gold Jacket Dinner broke, Hall of Famers and their families returned to the hotel for a reception.
My kids headed straight for the ice cream sundae bar, of course.
Not to worry, a nearby bartender offered. Bill Parcells, presenter for Martin, had done the same thing. A weekend such as this one makes all of us feel like kids.