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Pro Football Hall of Fame to welcome 2018 inductees

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Pro Football Hall of Fame to welcome 2018 inductees (AP photo)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio is going to be a little bigger come this weekend.

This year’s induction ceremony for the Class of 2018 will take place on August 4 as part of a larger weekend of events celebrating the game’s greats. Five players – linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens and defensive back Brian Dawkins – were tapped for induction by the modern-era committee. Joining them will be Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile via the senior committee and personnel executive Bobby Beathard as a contributor.

However, it should be noted that Owens – no stranger to controversy – has generated a bit more with his decision to eschew the official ceremony due to perceived disrespect on the part of the voters for making him wait until his third year on the ballot to be enshrined. He will instead speak at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The Class of 2018 includes three players who achieved induction in their first year of eligibility. Two linebackers and a wide receiver make up this outstanding trio.

Ray Lewis has a case as one of the best linebackers of his generation. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams during his tenure with the Baltimore Ravens, the only team he ever played for. He had 41.5 sacks among his 2,000-plus career tackles; he also had 31 interceptions and forced 19 fumbles. A defensive game-changer unlike any other.

Brian Urlacher had a phenomenal career as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. He was viewed as one of the staunchest defenders of the 2000s – he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and made eight Pro Bowls. His numbers bear that out – he managed nearly 1,500 tackles, with 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. He was the face of the Bears for a decade – no easy feat in a town that adores its middle linebackers.

Randy Moss has a case as the best wide receiver not named Jerry Rice in the history of the NFL. He was certainly one of the most feared, and with good reason – Moss holds the single-season record for touchdown receptions with 23 (he also had two seasons of 17, which is tied for fifth-best all-time). For his career, he’s got 156 TD catches, second only to Rice. He’s 15th on the receptions list with 982, but fourth in yardage with 15,292. A historically fearsome offensive weapon.

The two holdovers who made this year’s cut are plenty impressive as well.

The statistical case put forth by Terrell Owens is significant; it might surpass even that of Moss. He’s currently second in receiving yards, eighth in receptions and third in TD catches. And lest we forget, his nine catch, 122-yard performance for the Eagles against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX on what was essentially a broken leg is as gutty a showing as any we’ve seen. His contentious relationship with the media dinged him in the past – hence the wait for enshrinement - but this third time as a finalist was the charm. His refusal to show up for the ceremony might not be the greatest look, but his argument is not without merit.

Brian Dawkins is another player with Philadelphia ties, having spent 13 of his 16 seasons with the Eagles. The safety was one of the most feared defenders of his generation; he’s among the scant handful of players to accumulate at least 35 interceptions and 25 sacks (37 and 26, specifically). He also forced 36 fumbles and recovered 19. The nine-time Pro Bowler was first-team All-Pro four times. He was a heady, hard-hitting player – one who remains beloved in Philly even now.

Among the other inductees, it’s notable that Jerry Kramer is finally getting his due. Long considered the best player not to be in the Hall – he was the sole guard on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team – Kramer was a stalwart member of the Green Bay Packers dynasty of the 1960s. He also – along with sportswriting legend Dick Schaap – wrote “Instant Replay,” a diary of his 1967 season that remains one of the best books ever written about pro football.

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 August 2018 08:57

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