NFL Nation: 2013 Hall of Fame

CANTON, Ohio -- DeVonte Holloman will always have the Hall of Fame Game.

The rookie linebacker came up with the play of the day with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown after grabbing a tipped pass and sprinting to the end zone to give the Cowboys a 17-0 lead with 6:35 left in the first half.

“I thought about it the whole way here, and it actually happened,” Holloman said of his pick-six. “I had a celebration in my mind and I was kind of overwhelmed so I decided to celebrate with my teammates instead.”

Holloman’s interception was one of two takeaways by the Cowboys' defense against the Dolphins. On Miami’s first play from scrimmage, the exchange between quarterback and running back was muffed and Nick Hayden came up with the ball.

Four plays later, the Cowboys had a 7-0 lead after a Phillip Tanner touchdown.

“The correlation between taking the ball away and scoring points in this league is huge,” coach Jason Garrett said. “When we’ve played our best around here it’s been when we’ve been taking the ball away and protecting it.”

Holloman hopes it is not his last takeaway. He might get to show off the celebration.

So what was it anyway?

“I might save it for later,” he said, “so I can’t spoil it.”

Run-happy Cowboys pound away

August, 5, 2013
CANTON, Ohio -- At the opening training camp news conference, coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys need to run the ball more and need to run the ball better in 2013.

In Sunday’s 24-20 win against Miami, the Cowboys got the more (34 carries) and the better (170 yards).

Joseph Randle led the Cowboys with 70 yards on 13 carries. Phillip Tanner had 59 yards on 10 carries, including a touchdown. Lance Dunbar had 22 yards on four carries to start the game. Kendial Lawrence had a 5-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

“I thought it was a good start running the football,” Garrett said. “We ran it well. We ran it a few different ways. We ran it inside. We ran on the edge. I thought the backs ran hard.”

The Cowboys had only one game last season with more than 34 carries (42 at Baltimore). They had five games with 17 or fewer runs last season. They ran it 17 times in the first half Sunday.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Tanner said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ll go watch the film, capsulize what we did well, and look at what we did wrong and fix that. But this felt like a solid foundation.”

CANTON, Ohio -- The Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason with a 24-20 win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game thanks to a stingy defense and a solid running game, which was something they did not really have last season.

The Cowboys have now won their preseason opener four straight years. What does that mean? Not much, since they have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

What it means: With a new playcaller on offense in Bill Callahan and a new defense led by Monte Kiffin, getting off to a good start is a positive. The only starters that played were tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free, center Travis Frederick and linebacker Justin Durant. Free and Smith played a series. Frederick moved over to guard in the second quarter and for some of the third. Durant played a handful of series. While it’s still a question, the Cowboys found some answers for depth in guys like George Selvie, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle.

DeVonte Holloman with a pick-six: The rookie linebacker had the most athletic play of the night when he reached back to snag a Matt Moore throw intended for Chad Bumphis. Holloman was able to compose himself and then sprint 75 yards for the touchdown, slamming Moore to the turf with a facemask. Last season, the Cowboys forced turnovers at an alarmingly infrequent rate, which led to Rob Ryan’s firing and Kiffin’s arrival. On the first series, Nick Hayden came up with a fumble recovery that set up Tanner’s touchdown run. In the second half, the defense forced two fourth-down stops.

There’s a running game: One of the biggest complaints about Jason Garrett was his willingness to abandon the run. Callahan’s background as an offensive coordinator has many believing the Cowboys will have more balance. In the first half, the Cowboys’ three runners -- Tanner, Randle and Lance Dunbar -- averaged more than five yards per carry. In the second half, Randle did a nice job of picking up yards on his own. The Dolphins weren’t playing many of their regulars, but the fact that the Cowboys ran it 17 times for 97 yards in the first two quarters was a good sign. Last season, the Cowboys had four games in which they had fewer than 17 carries. Even undrafted rookie Kendial Lawrence got into the act with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:57 to play in the game.

Injury concerns: Safety Matt Johnson was off to a good start by starting the game, but he was hurt tracking down Bumphis on a 45-yard catch and run. He suffered a left ankle sprain and did not return. Defensive end Ben Bass hurt his left knee and did not return to the game but appeared to be fine on the sideline. He did not go to the locker room for X-rays, and he did not receive extra attention from the athletic training staff. Tanner hurt his left arm in the first quarter but was able to return to the game.

What’s next: The Cowboys play at Oakland on Friday in preseason game No. 2, and the starters will see some playing time against the Raiders.
CANTON, Ohio – The Miami Dolphins lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-20, Sunday night in the Hall of Fame Game. It was the first of five preseason games for both teams.

Here is what we learned about Miami:
  • Lamar Miller looked good in his debut as Miami’s feature running back. The second-year player rushed for 21 yards on two carries. Miller was decisive and hit the holes fast for nice gains. Miller also fumbled the handoff on the first play, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill was charged a turnover for the exchange. Otherwise, Miller had a good showing and was even trending on Twitter in the first half.
  • Miami’s defensive line has proven to be arguably the team’s deepest unit in training camp. That depth was on further display Saturday as the Dolphins sat out defensive linemen Jared Odrick, Olivier Vernon and Randy Starks. Backup Derrick Shelby and No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan played well. Shelby led Miami with two sacks while Jordan was aggressive and finished with two tackles and two quarterback pressures. It appears Miami’s defensive-line rotation is in good shape.
  • We didn’t see much from Tannehill as he was 2-for-5 for 11 yards in limited playing time. Tannehill had his two completions to tight end Dustin Keller and receiver Brandon Gibson. Tannehill was without his two starting receivers: Mike Wallace (groin) and Brian Hartline (calf).
  • Overall Miami's tackling was poor. The starters whiffed a few times and the backups were worse. This has to be something that irks Miami’s coaching staff. The Dolphins have only practiced in full pads a few times so far in training camp, mostly due new collective bargaining agreement rules. Miami head coach Joe Philbin may have to step up the intensity in practice to improve the tackling.
  • It was mixed results for Miami starting linebacker Philip Wheeler. Wheeler struggled early in his limited playing time. On the first drive, Dallas tight end Dante Rosario beat him for 18 yards. He also missed a tackle in the open field on Cowboys tailback Lance Dunbar. Although he did read a running back play and had a tackle for a loss on the same drive. Wheeler was a major free agent addition for Miami this offseason when he signed a five-year, $26 million contract.
  • With the backup receiver spots wide open, Chad Bumphis tried to make a move up the depth chart Saturday night. Bumphis led the Dolphins with four receptions for 65 yards and has made strong plays in training camp. He also showed his inexperience, however, by making a costly mistake on a dropped pass in the second quarter that led to a DeVonte Holloman 75-yard interception return for a touchdown. To make the 53-man roster, players like Bumphis must be consistent.
  • Miami’s left tackle spot continues to be a position to watch. Starter Jonathan Martin and backup left tackle Dallas Thomas both had their issues against Dallas. Martin whiffed on Dallas linebacker Kyle Wilber on one play that allowed Wilber to pressure Tannehill. Dallas backup defensive end George Selvie gave Thomas headaches on the second team. Much of Miami’s success on offense this season will depend on consistency at left tackle.
  • Miami backup quarterback Matt Moore had a pretty good night. He was 19-of-29 for 238 yards, with a late touchdown and an interception on the Bumphis drop. Moore was able to move the offense and showed why he is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
  • A player on the roster bubble who finally showed up was backup tight end Michael Egnew. He had four receptions for 52 yards. Egnew, a third-round pick in 2012, showed some of the things he did in college by getting vertical down the field to make catches. But he also had a drop in this game. Egnew is dangerously close to getting cut this year and must continue to make plays.
  • Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter made both of his field-goal attempts of 27 and 45 yards. He also made two extra points. Carpenter is competing with rookie Caleb Sturgis for Miami’s kicking job this season.

The Dolphins have a short week of preparation before Friday’s second preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Dolphins will take a day off on Monday and then hit the practice field again on Tuesday.
CANTON, Ohio – The starters for the Miami Dolphins are done early in Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game. The starting offense got off to a shaky start by fumbling on the first play of the game. The defense was decent but allowed a touchdown on a short field.

Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t do much in this game. He was 2-of-5 passing for 11 yards and was credited for a fumble after a botched handoff to tailback Lamar Miller. The offensive line was shaky in limited time and Tannehill mostly got rid of the ball quickly.

Miller did have a good day. He rushed for 21 yards on two carries. Miller also fumbled the handoff, but the quarterback usually gets credited. Otherwise, Miller had a good debut as Miami’s starting tailback.

Dolphins starting tight end Dustin Keller also had his first reception in Miami for four yards, as well as receiver Brandon Gibson for seven yards. Both players were brought to Miami in free agency to help Tannehill take the next step.

Check back later Sunday night for a full recap on the Dolphins from the Hall of Fame Game. You can also follow my Twitter page for live updates throughout the game from Canton, Ohio.
CANTON, Ohio -- The Miami Dolphins are going to be cautious with their injured starters in the first preseason game of the 2013 season.

Miami will sit starting receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline and defensive linemen Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Olivier Vernon Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. All of these players have minor injuries.

This is the first of five preseason games for Miami. The Dolphins will play again later this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cris Carter's enshrinement speech Saturday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was 100 percent Cris Carter -- complete with tears, near-gospel tones and frank admissions about his life's shortcomings. He had earlier described it as a "letter" intended to recognize the "people when I was at my darkest point and they still believed in me," and in a touching framework to his speech, Carter welcomed all of them to the Hall alongside him.

(Here is a full transcript from the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website.)

As a result, Carter didn't spend much time talking about his time with the Minnesota Vikings or really any of his on-field exploits. Instead, he reserved some of his most reverential words for Minnesota businessman Wheelock Whitney, who was a part-owner of the Vikings when the team claimed Carter on waivers in September 1990.

Whitney connected Carter with Betty Trilliegi, a substance-abuse counselor, and took great interest in Carter's life. Here's that segment of Carter's speech:
The Minnesota Vikings, we have one of the best employee assistance programs, cutting edge as far as substance abuse, people struggling with it. And our ownership at the time was a group of people, but one of the owners was named Wheelock Whitney.

When the Vikings acquired me from Philadelphia, like most pro teams, they don't know the intel on the player until they get the paperwork, but they had already had my contract by then. But Wheelock Whitney hooked me up with a good friend of his, whose name is Betty Triliegi, and she happens to be one of the best friends a person could ever have. The reason why, she didn't teach me how to catch or run routes, but she taught me how I could live a life and have power over my life. And my demons didn't have to always haunt me.

She asked me on Sept. 19. She said, 'Cris, can you just not have a drink for one week?' And since Sept. 19, 1990, because of Betty Triliegi, and Wheelock Whitney, I've been able to keep that program together. And but for them, I would not be going into the Hall, and I greatly appreciate and I honor them tonight.

I'm sure some of you will wonder why Carter didn't mention most of the quarterbacks he played with, or any of his non-Hall of Fame Vikings teammates or even coach Dennis Green. I guess that's a question for Carter. But to me, that didn't seem what the speech was about. The speech was about the people who helped him at his darkest moments, and by the time Green was hired and those quarterbacks joined the team, Carter was already on the upswing.

Regardless, Carter provided a predictably rousing performance to end the 2013 ceremony.

Here is a video of the full speech.
Cris CarterAndrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsCris Carter is fourth on the all-time reception list with 1,101 catches.
CANTON, Ohio -- Cris Carter’s emotional football journey started in Ohio about four decades ago and ended in Ohio on Saturday night.

Carter, 47, grew up in Troy, which is three hours away from Canton, home of the Hall of Fame, where Carter was honored this weekend. He also starred at Ohio State in Columbus before his stellar 16-year NFL career.

On Saturday, Carter -- emotional and reflective -- came full circle, returning to the Buckeye State as a member of the 2013 Hall of Fame class. He didn’t prepare notes for his speech. Carter spoke strictly from the heart in front of many of his fellow Ohioans and football peers.

“We have the greatest Hall of all the Halls,” Carter said emphatically. “And to be able to join these men, on this stage, in football heaven is the greatest day of my life.”

Carter’s journey wasn’t easy. He signed with an agent and lost his eligibility his senior year at Ohio State. Carter said his only football-related regret was leaving school early and being forced to enter the supplemental draft.

“To all the Buckeye fans, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely apologize,” Carter said.

Carter also battled drug and alcohol problems that nearly derailed his career. Carter described Sept. 19, 1990, as a landmark date in his life. That’s when he was asked in rehab to change his life. He’s been clean ever since.

On the field, Carter’s first NFL catch was a touchdown reception in 1987 against the St. Louis Rams. He had just five catches his rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles, which included two touchdowns. Former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan later coined the famous phrase that “All he does is catch touchdown passes.” That stuck with Carter the rest of his career. He finished with 131 career touchdowns, which ranks eighth all time.

In Minnesota, Carter’s career flourished. That’s where he made eight straight Pro Bowls, had two seasons of 122 receptions, and five straight seasons of double-digit touchdowns. It’s also where Carter got his life together.

Carter also can make a strong case for having the best hands in NFL history. His highlight tape displays some of the most difficult and spectacular catches ever seen. Those strong hands made Carter fourth on the all-time reception list with 1,101.

“When he came in from Philadelphia, we knew he was a great ballplayer and we knew he could play,” former Vikings teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Chris Doleman said. “We wanted to just give him a clean slate to work from and let him do what he do. He’s never done anything but honored the Vikings and the Vikings colors.”

Consider Carter’s enshrinement speech, which was about 16 minutes long, one final touchdown reception. He was the final speaker in the 2013 Hall of Fame class, and Carter had several tough acts to follow. Jonathan Ogden and Curley Culp were classy. Dave Robinson and Larry Allen were funny. Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp, as expected, were straight shooters.

But Carter was able to put a bow on this entire Hall of Fame. He began by playing to the hometown crowd with a chant of “O-H-I-O.” Then he got more personal.

Carter’s son, Duron, introduced him. Carter also made sure to thank his mother, Joyce, and asked her to stand up in front of a national audience.

“Mama, I got to tell you, I didn’t have to wait to get a call from the Hall for them to tell me I was a Hall of Famer -- you’ve been telling me that since I was little,” Carter said. “You told me everything that’s ever happened in my life that’s happened. But Mom, I got to tell you. I have to apologize. I’m so sorry for the bumpy flight and the bumpy ride.

“But I got to tell you, Mama, it’s a smooth landing.”

Carter’s résumé is still growing. He is the author of a new book and an insightful NFL analyst at ESPN.

After five years as a finalist who came up just short, Carter can add one more deserving label on a historic night in Canton: Hall of Famer.

“Buckeye born and bred,” Carter said in conclusion. “Now an H-O-F-er -- even after I’m dead.”

HOF: Dave Robinson tasted blood

August, 3, 2013
I'm not in Canton, Ohio, this evening, so I can't bring you a first-hand account of the two players with NFC North ties who are being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I do want to bring you a highlight or two of the speeches from both Dave Robinson (Green Bay Packers) and Cris Carter (Minnesota Vikings), and we'll move in chronological order.

Robinson noted that he played on perhaps the best left side of a defense in NFL history, one that for the most part had five Hall of Famers lining up next to each other. But my favorite part of his speech was when he evoked a bygone era of gladiator football.

"It's a Spartan game," Robinson recalled a coach once telling him, "played by Spartan-like individuals in a Spartan-like manner. It's a game of hitting and getting hit. You've got to like to hit, and you've got to like to get hit. If you don't, you won't last long in this league.

"I tell people that when you play football, you've got to like the taste of blood. You've got to remember that 50 percent of the time, it's your blood." has put together a five-minute video of the highlights from Robinson's speech right here. Here is a full transcript of the speech from the Pro Football Hall of Fame's web site.

Video: Larry Allen's Hall of Fame speech

August, 3, 2013

Longtime Dallas offensive lineman Larry Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame after 10 career Pro Bowl selections in 14 NFL seasons. Click here for the full transcript of Allen's speech.

CANTON, Ohio -- Bill Parcells' day at the Hall of Fame got off to an unexpected start.

Former pupil Bill Belichick made the trip to Canton to support his mentor, despite their frosty relationship in recent years. The two even shared a somewhat awkward embrace. It was that kind of historic day in Canton to mend fences.

Parcells wasn’t the easiest coach to play for or -- as Belichick would attest -- coach under. But Parcells was one of the all-time great coaches and talent evaluators. That rare combination led Parcells to become the only coach inducted in the 2013 Hall of Fame class.

“Losers assemble in little groups and complain about the coaches and the players in other little groups,” Parcells said, echoing a quote from Hall of Fame safety Emlen Tunnell. “But winners assemble as a team, and tonight I get to do just that."

Parcells was known for turning franchises around. He led the New York Giants and New England Patriots to Super Bowl appearances. Parcells also led the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins (as president) to winning seasons. He spent much of his time explaining his dynamics of building a team with accountability, and also thanked many of the people who helped him become successful.

But an underrated part of Parcells’ legacy is his talented coaching tree. Three Super Bowl-winning coaches (Belichick, Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin) learned how to coach under Parcells. Coughlin and Belichick, in particular, were both in attendance and will someday join Parcells in the Hall of Fame.

Parcells did things his way, and most of the time he was right. The results speak for themselves.

Jonathan Ogden's speech at his Hall of Fame induction Saturday night drew some laughs, a few boos at one point but no tears, although the mammoth 6-foot-9 offensive tackle was close a few times.

His 13-minute, 35-second speech was a sentimental journey on how he grew as a person and how he and a new generation of Baltimore football fans grew up together in the NFL. By the time Ogden delivered his final thank you, it was official: A Ravens team that had no history when it drafted Ogden in 1996 officially celebrated their first drafted player to reach the Hall of Fame.

After general manager Ozzie Newsome presented him for induction, Ogden went to the podium and turned to Newsome, saying, "I've often thought about that day back in 1996 when you drafted me instead of Lawrence Phillips. You know what buddy, I think that worked out well for everybody."

In April 1996, the Ravens were three months removed from relocating from Cleveland. Before they even had a logo, the Ravens wisely chose someone who would help emblemize the fledgling franchise, picking Ogden with the No. 4 overall pick instead of the troubled Phillips.

What would end up as a Hall of Fame career began with a humble introduction to the league.

[+] EnlargeJnathan Ogden
AP Photo/David RichardFormer Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden went to the Pro Bowl for 11 straight years.
"When I came to Baltimore in 1996, we had no team, we had no history," Ogden said. "We didn't even had team colors. We just had a name. I can remember at the draft, I had that black jacket with the white letters that said Baltimore Ravens and the white hat with the black letters that said Baltimore Ravens. And in the back of my mind, I was saying, 'I don't really know where we're going with this right now.' But Ozzie assured me: 'Our goal is to make a winner here.' I told him: 'I want to be a part of that.'"

Ogden was more than just a part of the Ravens. He became the best offensive player in team history, and the most dominant offensive tackle of his era. He went to the Pro Bowl for 11 straight years (every season except his rookie one when he played left guard).

Dressed in his gold Hall of Fame jacket and wearing two Super Bowl rings on his right hand (he was given one for the Ravens' championship last season), Ogden thanked the important coaches who helped his career, from high school to UCLA to the Ravens. He spoke about his father Shirrel, who passed away seven years ago, and called him "the absolute biggest influence on my life, as far as the way I try to be a man and the way I try to raise my son, and the primary reason why I decided to play football." It was at this point, when Ogden successfully fought back tears.

Ogden drew a mixed reaction when he honored former Ravens owner Art Modell. The Hall of Fame ceremony is in Canton, Ohio, which is 60 miles away from Cleveland, where Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore.

"Without a doubt one of the most generous and kindest individuals that I ever met," Ogden said. "I wish he could be here with me today. Someone once said to me, 'if you can't tell the history of the game of football without mentioning this person, then they are without a doubt, a Hall of Famer.' Well, there is no way that you can tell the history of pro football without mentioning Art Modell. So hopefully, one day we can get him here, because what he's meant to the league has been tremendous."

Ogden concluded by drawing a parallel with his career and a football town that had been without a team for 12 years until the Ravens arrived.

"We were all rookies together," Ogden said. "I watched us grow, myself as a player and our fans as an NFL city from infancy to one of, if not the best, football towns in the National Football League. I am so very proud to have been the Baltmore Ravens' draft choice, and I am so humbled to be the Baltimore Ravens' first-ever Hall of Fame inductee."
CANTON, Ohio -- It has been a banner 2013 for the Baltimore Ravens.

First, the Ravens won their second Super Bowl in franchise history in February. Then, future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis retired as a champion at the top of the NFL ladder.

On Saturday, Baltimore’s landmark calendar year continued as former left tackle Jonathan Ogden became the first homegrown Raven to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not only was Ogden a first-round pick, but he was the Ravens’ first pick in franchise history in 1996.

Ogden helped lift the Ravens to where they are today. He put a bow on his 12-year football career Saturday by also becoming the first player enshrined of the 2013 class.

“I just really want to thank the fans and the city of Baltimore,” Ogden said Saturday. “When I came to the Ravens in 1996, we had no team, we had no history. We didn’t even have team colors. We just had a name. … The Ravens were new to everybody.”

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome introduced Ogden. According to Newsome, who is one of the NFL's top talent evaluators, Ogden played left tackle as good or better than player in history. Newsome said the keys were Ogden’s immense size and the feet of a defensive back.

Ogden reached 11 Pro Bowls in 12 seasons and won a Super Bowl. He was drafted in the first round in 1996 along with Lewis, who was in attendance and will surely follow Ogden to Canton in five years.

Odgen began his speech Saturday with a joke. He mentioned how former running back and draft bust Lawrence Phillips was also being considered by the Ravens with their first ever pick.

As Ogden mentioned, Baltimore made the right choice and the rest was NFL history.

Live Blog: 2013 Hall of Fame Induction

August, 3, 2013
Join our NFL experts at 7 p.m. ET as the Hall of Fame welcomes the Class of 2013. We will be tweeting observations and soliciting your memories of the inductees Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson and Warren Sapp.

See you there.

CANTON, Ohio -- The NFL's 2013 Hall of Fame enshrinement is about one hour away. It appears the weather will cooperate for this year’s speeches, which is set for 7 p.m. ET.

The temperature in Canton is in the mid-70s with clear skies. That will cool off some during the night, but there doesn’t appear to be much chance for rain. Occasionally, Hall of Fame weather can be unpredictable with this outdoor venue.

The crowd is filling in at Fawcett Stadium to hear the speeches of Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, Curley Culp, Warren Sapp and Cris Carter. Don't forget to join me at 7 p.m. ET on for a live chat from Canton.