NFL Nation: NFL Hall of Fame

CLEVELAND, Ohio —Hall of Famer Harry Carson wasn’t surprised by the comments from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling that drew a lifetime ban from the NBA.

Carson, executive director of The Fritz Pollard Alliance, and several other Hall of Famers who gathered in Cleveland for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Fan Fest this weekend applauded NBA players for uniting in their condemnation of Sterling’s racist remarks.

“It doesn’t really surprise me,” said Carson, who has urged the NFL to penalize players for using the N-word. “People have very deep-seeded thoughts of other people. When a person is older, the way that they feel has been in their system forever.”

Former Patriots offensive guard John Hannah had an interesting suggestion for dealing with people who make the types of racist assertions that Sterling did on a tape that was made public nine days ago.

“There’s always jackasses in the world, you know?” Hannah said. “You just kind of giggle at them, laugh at them and know that they’re idiots. Let it go.”

Barry Sanders, the Hall of Fame Detroit Lions running back, was “shocked and amazed” when he first learned of Sterling’s audio comments. Floyd Little, another Hall of Fame back who played for the Broncos, applauded Silver’s swift and firm punishment.

“Got what he deserved,” Little said. “I’m not pulling any punches, but it’s a history. It’s not like it’s just one shot. If it’s one shot? Then no. But his history tells what he’s done over the years. It finally caught up with him. So when you get caught, you get caught.”

If there was any good to come from this incident, it was that athletes and every-day people alike rallied around an issue and took an impactful stand against hateful rhetoric, Hall of Famers Bobby Mitchell and Mike Haynes said.

“I was proud to see athletes speaking as a group about something,” Mitchell said.

“For real change to occur in our country, people have to deal with these things, put them on the table,” Haynes added. “I’m not saying that [Sterling] is the first and only guy to do it. It’s been going on. But there’s never been anything that’s happened to bring that attention to a situation that was high enough to get such [media] interest.”
NEW ORLEANS -- Larry Allen said he started crying when he got the news Saturday night that he'd been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Makes sense. What Allen did for a living -- play guard in the NFL for 14 years, the first 12 with the Dallas Cowboys -- was crushing hard work. And while Allen might have been one of the most decorated guards in NFL history, having played in 11 Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl and been elected to two separate all-decade teams, the amount of attention offensive linemen get isn't commensurate with the difficulty of the work they do. Quarterbacks get the glory, as do star wideouts and running backs and pass-rushers and even the occasional cornerback. After doing what he did as well as he did it for as long as he did it, to be elected to the Hall of Fame as a no-brainer on the first try has to be supremely gratifying.

It's not a surprise, though. Allen must have been one of the easiest calls the voters made this year in their eight-hour (!) selection meeting. He was an absolutely dominating player -- an All-Pro selection every year from 1995-2001. He had strength and instincts, and incredible speed and quickness for a man of his mountainous size. During his time, he was the very best in the entire league at what he did, and the length of time for which he did it makes him one of the best offensive linemen of all time. If you didn't know that a couple of hours ago, Allen now has proof. He is, officially, a Hall of Famer.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

 
 Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
 Owner Daniel Snyder of the Washington Redskins talks with coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts before the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium.

CANTON, Ohio -- Is the reorganization of the Colts' running back depth underway?

A couple carries in the preseason opener aren't going to scramble the depth chart. But sixth-round draft pick Mike Hart out of Michigan started to make his case with four carries for 53 yards and three catches for 24 more in tonight's 30-16 loss to Washington in the Hall of Fame Game.

The depth chart says after Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes it's Kenton Keith, Clifton Dawson, Hart and Chad Simpson. Odds are the team keeps four and that beyond the top two it'll be a fluid situation to the final cuts.

"It's going to be very competitive, it has been that way in camp and they followed it up with a good performance today," coach Tony Dungy said. "We've seen that from Mike four years in college and we've seen it every day in practice, he just continues to run hard and block well and catch the ball and does the things you need to get done."

Hart was smiling after the game as he talked about getting booed, saying it reassures him that he did OK in college at Michigan if he's reviled when he arrives in Ohio. While he felt good about his game he also found some fault.

"My pass-blocking wasn't great today and I can do a lot of little things better," he said. "But running the ball I think I did pretty well. We didn't run too many plays, so the script was kind of easy. I was comfortable out there... It's hard. Everyone's real talented. We're all talented. Everyone has to come out every day and play their best."

How to decide about the backs over the remainder of training camp and four more preseason games?

"You'll have to ask Mr. Polian that question," Hart said, referring to team president Bill Polian. "I have no clue."

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

 
 Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
 Redskins rookie Colt Brennan was nine-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns in his Washington debut.

CANTON, Ohio -- Jim Zorn never saw 12 men on the field, he never saw 10.

In some coaching debuts, that alone would have been a small victory. But Zorn got a bigger one than that tonight.

It doesn't count, no, but a preseason 30-16 win over Indianapolis in the Hall of Fame Game came with calm coaches in control, not the sort of chaos some staffs have to work through at the start. Zorn, a former quarterback hired largely to mold a quarterback got strong play from his signal callers, who posted a collective 147.2 rating thanks to three touchdowns paired with three incompletions.

"I felt like it was a big win for me because it was my first time out, what we accomplished was pretty special," Zorn said. "I thought it was very smooth."

Zorn's lead quarterback, Jason Campbell, didn't play long, but didn't miss while he was in, hitting on all five of his passes.

"He wasn't just looking at it, 'Oh, just give me 10 plays and I'll get out,'" Zorn said. "He was really looking at finishing drives. So he gave me what I wanted and I think he gave the team what they needed as far as his leadership, his accuracy. He was very disciplined by staying with reads and not deviating from what we had planned."

The Colts may have helped the Redskins out with a failed onside kick at the start of the game that left Washington with great field position to go get a quick touchdown. But the Redskins also had a 15-play, 88-yard drive that ate 7:46 off the fourth quarter clock and put them up for good.

Zorn was also pleased that rookie quarterback Colt Brennan, who put in extra study time the last three days, handled his time in the huddle so well -- nine-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

"He kind of stepped it up for himself in the last few days," Zorn said. "He had some really slick throws, a few of them were really dangerous throws. But he was looking and going to the right guy when we were dropping back. He even took a couple of checkdowns and scrambled and threw a touchdown pass."

Said Brennan: "He has a thing where we are responsible for knowing the formations, he doesn't call it, we have to know it -- and it being my first game, that's a lot of formations to remember and a lot of different situations. What it did was really made me grind out the study hours, kind of lock in the offense and it helped me be a lot more confident with what we were doing."

Colt Brennan wows Canton

August, 3, 2008
8/03/08
11:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

CANON, Ohio -- Right to second-half observations...

  • Wow, a timeout for Indianapolis before its first play from scrimmage in the second half. To be clear, that's a touchback and a timeout before a snap. Just in case you were mistaking this for Peyton Manning's September-October Colts.
  • Newly minted Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Emmitt Thomas did their interviews with the NBC crew in the booth, not from the sideline. No elevator here. They may be immortalized in bronze, but they'll still walk up 40 stairs to chat with Al Michaels and John Madden.
  • Clinton Portis, who didn't play and Shawn Springs, who did, spent much of the third quarter wide of the bench area, chatting and seeming to enjoy life. Bob Sanders, who's not even dressed, was across the field from them. We've got coach-to-quarterback and coach-to-defender communication devices. How about stars-to-stars after halftime of the first of five preseason games? I guess those are called cell phones and we'd frown upon their use. Be fun to listen in, though.
  • The second completion of Colt Brennan's NFL life was a beautiful 34-yarder that Billy McMullen did well to corral as it dropped right in front of him as he angled to the left side. Brennan may never make it at this level, but with that throw you can see the sort of thing that makes him intriguing. A few plays later he held it forever, took a sack and you could see what makes him very iffy. Then he immediately threw a 20-yard TD pass to Maurice Mann and you could what makes him intriguing. He surely earned more of a look -- finishing nine-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns before he was replaced by Derek Devine.
  • Jared Lorenzen dropped back, stepped up, took off, ran to the right sideline for a 9-yard first down and went out of bounds. Who, exactly, would rather step up and take him on than get an earful at a film review session? A few plays later, Chris Horton got both arms around the massive QB in the backfield, but it took a while to actually tip the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Lorenzen over. Some teammates could have taken a knee to catch their breath while they waited. You have to guess none of them have had practice at toppling a guy that size in the pocket, or have ever seen it done.

Back in a bit after we see what they're saying downstairs.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

CANTON, Ohio -- In-game thoughts from the dark front row of the press box at Fawcett Stadium:

  • You're welcome, Jason Campbell. The Colts started the game with an onside kick, and failed to recover. Washington and its new offense began the game on the Colts' 45-yard line. Three plays and Campbell had a 20-yard TD pass to Antwaan Randle El. Indy was happy to oblige as the Skins try to get their new stuff off the ground.
  • Joseph Addai went out in the first series out with what officials deemed a "head injury." No way were we going to see him again. In the middle of the second quarter he was hanging with the running backs on the sideline.
  • The Colts front-line offense did well to get from third-and-long to second-and-manageable twice in its first (only?) drive. Skins corner Fred Smoot should have ended it when a bad pass for Reggie Wayne hit him at the goal line, but he dropped it. Jim Sorgi found a lot of the Colts basic passes, then they got to the red zone and he couldn't finish things. And yup, that was it for Sorgi.
  • Colts center Jamey Richard created a mini-stat team controversy when he snapped a ball through the end zone for a second-quarter safety. However, as it's officially written up in the press box, Richard's snap looked like a field goal attempt as it sailed over Quinn Gray's head and then skittered out the back of the end zone. Write that on the stat sheet, everyone will understand. Jeff Saturday won't do that when it matters.
  • Late second quarter, I focused for a series on Indy defensive tackle Eric Foster, the undrafted rookie out of Rutgers who's had some encouraging things said about him. He's flipped between left and right tackle, working pretty hard. A couple times he helped steer a back towards a tackler. He goes a lot against right guard Jason Fabini, an 11-year veteran who Washington is hoping is a second-stringer. Foster looked tired in the long series. He was away from the conclusion of a couple plays in a row and wasn't running hard to get involved. I suspect he was pleased when the series ended with a 39-yard field goal attempt by Shaun Suisham -- which was missed.
  • Forgot to mention this earlier: Chris Cooley had some interesting thoughts when he was asked about the Steve Smith-Ken Lucas fight in Carolina. It left Lucas with a broken nose and Smith with a two-game suspension for the start of the regular season.

"I don't think it causes a chemistry problem. I think it hurts the Panthers because Steve Smith is going to be missing the first two games. I think that's your biggest problem. But at the same time you've got to set down a rule that you can't just break someone's nose on the sideline. And if you know you're going to miss two games you maybe think about it a little more. I don't think it causes a chemistry problem, I assume that they get over it. It's not like we're a women's basketball team."

And how would women's basketball team be? "Just more drama."

Believe it or not, Chris got married this offseason.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

CANTON, Ohio -- Redskins 17, Colts 13.

No, not my score prediction for the Hall of Fame Game.

That's how many players each team has scratched.

The resulting starters include Colts left guard Dan Federkeil and strongside linebacker Ramon Guzman. For Washington we'll see the likes of running back Rock Cartwright, weakside linebacker Matt Sinclair and defensive end Demetric Evans.

One storyline that might have played out beyond the first quarter pertained to Washington's rookie receivers. But Devin Thomas didn't make the trip because of a hamstring problem, and now Devin Thomas won't play either because of a sore knee.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

CANTON, Ohio -- Poked around the jam-packed Pro Football Hall of Fame this afternoon.

Some thoughts from a first-timer:

  • Chuck Such, a sportswriter at the Canton Repository, wrote an article headlined: "Pro Football Needs a Hall of Fame and Logical Site is Here" on Dec. 6, 1959. The ground breaking was on Aug. 11, 1962 and it opened Sept. 7, 1963. I don't know just how much influence he had, but there isn't a sportswriter alive who wouldn't like his name connected to such a thing in such a way.
  • I went to say hello to the bronze busts of Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews, the two Hall of Famers I've covered. Munchak (class of 2001) is the Titans offensive line coach, Matthews (class of 2007) retired and moved back to Texas after finishing his distinguished career in Nashville. They didn't make the trip this weekend. The two are best friends and, coincidentally, are positioned the highest among the busts of their respective classes. I can't help but picture them, once the place is closed, turning to talk family and football from maybe 15 feet apart.
  • Mark, a good story-telling volunteer, told a great one that's probably widely known but was new to me. Alan Page grew up right here and actually had a summer job helping build the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since 1988 he's been a member of it too.
  • A name I should have known but didn't: Burl Toler was the first African-American official. He was a field judge from 1965-89.
  • In a mini-theater, a short video packed with 2007 highlights concludes with beautiful images from the Giants' win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. As a little boy in a Jason Campbell jersey walked away, he turned and said to his dad: "That just never gets old. Never, ever, ever, ever."
  • In the NFL "Mall" of Fame where all kinds of collectibles were on sale, an encased Oilers helmet signed by Hall of Famers Warren Moon and Earl Campbell had a $789 price tag. A Cowboys helmet signed by Roger Staubach with "SB VI MVP" was $6 more. Meanwhile there was a "Brad Johnson Blowout." Sorry Brad, but "Mounted Memories" was looking to unload you and quick. The sign near an autographed mini-helmet had prices of $89 and $39 crossed out, with a new price of $29. "The blank helmet sells for that much," another sign announced.

The teams have gone through early warm-ups. Kickoff for Colts-Skins is a little over an hour away.

Hall of Fame 2008 wrap-up

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
10:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

 
 AP Photo/Mark Duncan
 Andre Tippett acknowledges fans as he is introduced at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

CANTON, Ohio -- Saturday obviously was a celebrated day for the Washington Redskins, but there were several highlights from today's other 2008 Hall of Fame inductees.

Here were the notables:

"We had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in our division in Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, and he completely changed the passing attack of those two teams," Kraft said. "Once [Tippett] joined the joined the team, the New England Patriots improved dramatically."

"Because I know there's a wager waged somewhere [that I would]," Dean said.

"Growing up, I was resentful and angry at other families around us because they seemed fully intact," Thomas said. "I'd often lay awake at night wondering why our family had to be different.

"But I came to the stark realization that the good Lord wanted us to be reared and raised under the guiding hands of my grandfathered, who in his own right was a giant of a man."

  • Newly inducted Hall of Fame tackle Gary Zimmerman addressed how he used smarts and technique to overcome a bad left shoulder injury that could have otherwise cut short his 12-year career.
  • As a final goodbye, a group of Washington Redskins fans sang "Hail to the Redskins" in the corner of the end zone in Fawcett Stadium as Darrell Green was doing interviews with the NFL Network.
 
 Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
 Darrell Green, Emmitt Thomas, Art Monk, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippett and Fred Dean pose with their busts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement at Fawcett Stadium.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- Darrell Green summed up the 2008 Hall of Fame commencements best on Saturday.

"It's a Redskins day, baby!" Green said.

The sea of burgundy and gold jerseys filled Fawcett Stadium in anticipation of Green and former Washington Redskins teammate Art Monk into the Hall of Fame. Both received lengthy standing ovations before and after their speeches.

Jared Green, Darrell's son, estimated that "95 percent" of the announced crowd of 16,654 were Redskins fans, and his rough guess was pretty close.

There were a wealth of Green jerseys, a wealth of Monk jerseys, and a good mix of jerseys from current Washington players that will take the field Sunday in its preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts.

Green and Monk didn't disappoint. The pair were never as flashy as their contemporaries but were winners in every sense of the word. Similar to their playing careers, Monk and Green were very consistent in delivering quality speeches.

There were many similarities Saturday.

Both Green and Monk had their sons eloquently introduce them. Both speeches were enlightening and charismatic. Both shared their experience with those that helped them.

And both players went into the Hall as proud Redskins.

"I will always be known as a Redskin," Monk said. "That's right."

Added Green, "To the Redskins faithful, our fans, I share this day with all of you."

Green was the only first-ballot Hall of Famer in the 2008 class. His case was undeniable after 20 stellar seasons, most of which he was the league's fastest man and one of the NFL's best cornerbacks.

But Monk's case was debated over the past several years. His candidacy was rebuked seven times by the Hall of Fame committee, despite Monk statistically ranking among the very best at his position.

Monk had 940 career catches for 12,721 yards. His reception total is right now more than any receiver currently enshrined in Canton. But Monk only was a first-team All-Pro one time, in addition to his three Pro Bowls.

Monk also was never accommodating with the media during his 16-year career, which likely had a hand in his delayed entrance.

Fellow Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, also one of the greatest receivers of all time, believes Monk's case should've never been up for debate.

"Art Monk has had a stellar career," Warfield said. "I saw Art perhaps two weeks ago at an event and congratulated him. It's well deserved. He was statistically a leader until his marks were broken, and he should have been in a long time ago.

"I told Art, 'It doesn't matter, because now you're here.' And that's the most important thing. He deserved to be here and now he's a part of this very prestigious fraternity."

Monk briefly addressed his situation during his commencement speech.

"Now standing next to them, as one of them, is truly an honor,'' Monk said. "Getting here didn't come without consequences. But through it all I'm here with a greater appreciation for something that not every player was able to achieve."

But finally being inducted had to be worth it for Monk, who received the longest-standing ovation of the night.

Redskins fans chanted "Eighty-one!" and "Thank you Monk!" as he smiled and soaked it all in. One sign read "A work of Art" to describe Monk's career as he smiled and enjoyed the elongated appreciation from Redskins fans.

Monk never imagined that football would take him this far, but it did. Saturday, Monk said, was the icing on the cake.

"From the time I picked up a football, I loved this game," Monk said. "It's all I wanted to do."

Overall, this was a day when being long in the tooth was celebrated.

Longevity is the most elusive feat in the National Football League, yet it is the rare common thread that binds the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame class together this weekend.

Green, Monk, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippett, Emmitt Thomas and Fred Dean combined for an astounding 84 years of NFL experience.

But it was the 36 years played by a pair of Redskins that brought a majority of today's onlookers to Canton, a city rich in football history.

"The Redskin Nation sticks together," Green said.

They sure do.

 
 AP Photo/Mark Duncan
 Darrell Green, left, jokes around as fans cheer for him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio. At right is Fred Dean.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- The crowd of 16,654 rose to its feet before and after a rousing speech gave by former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green.

Jared Green gave a delightful and often funny introduction of his father, who played 20 seasons in Washington until he retired at the age of 42.

But the former NFL's fastest man couldn't run from his emotions.

"You bet your life I'm going to cry," Green said. "You bet your life I will."

A few moments later, Green cried.

Green was proud of his teammates. He was proud of his parents. He was proud of his wife, and he was proud of his son that flawlessly introduced Darrell Green on one of the proudest days his life.

"That's my boy right there," Green said.

Green was charismatic in his speech. He talked about how he got his start in football, how he nearly quit in college after the death of his friend, and how former coaches such as Joe Gibbs shaped his career.

And it all culminated into a stellar Hall of Fame career that came full circle in Canton today. Not only that, he went in with his longtime teammate and friend -- receiver Art Monk.

"What a great day."

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green is next to speak, which has created a buzz here at Fawcett Stadium.

Many people are filing around and getting in their seats, ready to hear what the former 20-year veteran has to say.

By the way, any mention of Green, Art Monk or any former Redskins for that matter has created a rousing group of cheers throughout the evening.

Redskin Parade!

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
8:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- Is this Fawcett Stadium or FedEx Field?

It's difficult to tell with the impressive sea of burgundy-and-gold jerseys at Saturday's Hall of Fame ceremonies.

There are a lot of Art Monk and Darrell Green jerseys in Fawcett Stadium, mixed with many jerseys of current Redskins such as running back Clinton Portis.

Green will speak third-to-last this evening, and Monk will be the headliner as the final speaker.

It's no secret the pair of players most people came to see.

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