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Saturday, February 2, 2008
Redskins' Monk, Green headline HOF class; Tagliabue shut out again

Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Like the two old friends they are, Darrell Green and Art Monk chatted about the latest news in their lives: making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Never mind that thousands of people were listening to the conference call after Saturday's announcement. This was simply two former Washington Redskins sharing verbal hugs after receiving the sport's highest honor.

"May I just say to you when I first came to Washington, you had just won the Super Bowl, you guys worked me over for nine weeks and I hated all of you," Green told Monk, drawing laughter.

"I appreciate your words," Monk told Green, who covered Monk in practices for years. "I was trying to hear some of the comments that you made and I feel the same way. "

Other players joining Green and Monk included New England linebacker Andre Tippett, San Diego/San Francisco defensive end Fred Dean, Minnesota/Denver tackle Gary Zimmerman and senior committee choice, Kansas City cornerback Emmitt Thomas.

'08 Hall Of Fame Class

It was the Redskins' day on Saturday as Washington legends Darrell Green and Art Monk headlined the list of 2008's Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Here's a look at the full class.

Player NFL team(s)
CB Darrell Green Redskins
WR Art Monk Redskins, Jets, Eagles
LB Andre Tippett Patriots
DE Fred Dean Chargers, 49ers
OT Gary Zimmerman Vikings, Broncos
CB Emmitt Thomas Chiefs

Monk finally was chosen in his eighth year of eligibility. He concluded his career after the 1995 season with Philadelphia, but spent 13 years with the Redskins as one of the NFL's premier receivers. Monk held records for career catches (940) and most consecutive games with a reception (164). Both have been surpassed, but Monk didn't play in as wide-open an era on offense as many other receivers. He was one of the most consistent possession and third-down receivers in the league throughout his 14 pro seasons.

"Whether I deserved to play in the NFL or deserve even to be in Hall of Fame, I just loved the game, loved to play, loved being out there," Monk said.

Green, one of the NFL's speediest and most skilled cornerbacks for two decades, spent his entire career (1983-2002) with the Redskins. He holds the record for consecutive seasons with an interception (19), and had 54 picks for 621 yards and six TDs. A member of the 1990s All-Decade team, Green made seven Pro Bowls.

"This is incredible. This is so special," Green said when informed of the vote. "This is out of this world. This literally transcends football, everything I have gone through to do what I was able to do. It was more than the ability to run and cover. It just goes so far beyond that."

The other player in his first year of eligibility, receiver Cris Carter, was not elected. Carter finished his 15-year career second on the career list in receptions and TD catches.

Inductions will be at the Pro Football Hall of Game in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 2.

"I looked forward to the day we are going to Canton," Green said, breaking up with emotion. "Hopefully, there are several hundred thousand hotels there, and several hundred thousand tickets."

Perhaps the most surprising outcome was that Tagliabue, again, did not get enough support.

Art Monk
Art Monk played 13 seasons for the Redskins and held two NFL receiving records when he retired, but he didn't get into the Hall of Fame until his eighth year of eligibility.

In his 17 years as commissioner, the NFL experienced no labor stoppages, while its revenues from TV contracts skyrocketed. There also were expansions to Jacksonville, Charlotte, Cleveland and Houston under his watch, and several teams moved into new stadiums, many of them built with public funds.

But many, including some reporters on the 44-member selection committee, found Tagliabue unapproachable and uncooperative.

Also failing to get in were Redskins guard Russ Grimm, Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed, Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy, Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar, Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, Miami Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg, Vikings guard Randall McDaniel, and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.

Senior committee nominee Marshall Goldberg was not elected, either.

Tippett, the Patriots' director of community affairs, was considered the best linebacker in the AFC during an era when Lawrence Taylor ruled the other conference. An outstanding pass rusher who also could handle coverage, Tippett was a force against the run after a stint in junior college and a standout career at Iowa.

"This is by far the proudest moment of my professional football career," said Tippett, who made the NFL's 1980s All-Decade team and waited 10 years for this day. "I will be joining the greats of the game and I am deeply honored."

Tippett said he had plenty of support from the Patriots' Super Bowl traveling party as he waited to learn whether he was headed to Canton.

"Everybody, from day one when we got here, they were like, 'Hey, we're looking to do something special -- you on Saturday and us on Sunday,' " Tippett said on Saturday. "It couldn't have happened at a greater time."

Surrounded by family, team employees and fans, Tippett watched the Hall of Fame announcement on television in the lobby of the team's headquarters hotel in nearby Scottsdale.

"When they said, it, man, the whole lobby just broke out in an uproar," Tippett said. "It was overwhelming a little bit. I looked soft for a little while, but that was OK. It was a good thing. It was cool that people were able to share that with us."

Tippett immediately jumped into a car for the long drive to downtown Phoenix, where he met with the media. He said his cell phone buzzed the whole way. "I've gotten a ton of text messages from [linebacker Mike] Vrabel and [quarterback Tom] Brady and a couple of the other guys,'' Tippett said.

It was a big change from a year ago, when Tippett was passed over after reaching the finals. He retired in 1993 and waited 10 years for election.

"Last year was tough, but the nice thing about it, I was home alone, so nobody saw me lose it," he said. "When I saw the class and didn't make it, you know, I've gotten this far, you might as well put me in."

Although he weighed only 230, Dean was a fearsome pass rusher because of his speed and agility; blockers struggled to get their hands on him. He starred with the Chargers from 1975-81, then with the 49ers from 1981-85.

"All I can say is thank you. I am trying to get my heart in order, it's still racing," Dean said.

Zimmerman was a standout for the Vikings from 1986-92 and the Broncos from 1993-97, winning a Super Bowl in his final season. He made his reputation in the USFL before joining Minnesota.

"I am in shock right now," Zimmerman said.

Thomas, who also was Green's position coach for years in Washington, was a superb bump-and-run and coverage cornerback for the Chiefs from 1966-78. He was the interim coach of the Falcons at the end of the 2007 season and has been retained as an assistant by new coach Mike Smith.

Thomas was thrilled with the company he is keeping, most specifically Green and Monk.

"Those guys have high character. I'm proud to go in with them."