In­ductees stump­ing for peers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

CAN­TON, Ohio — For sev­eral mem­bers of the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017, it was a time to cam­paign while cel­e­brat­ing.

Ter­rell Davis wants more at­ten­tion paid to the run­ning game and stronger Hall con­sid­er­a­tion for run­ning backs — some­thing sim­i­lar to this year, when both he and LaDainian Tom­lin­son were se­lected.

Morten An­der­sen, just the sec­ond full-time kicker to make the Hall, spoke out Fri­day for the guys who put the foot in foot­ball.

Kenny Easley can’t be­lieve there are only eight pure safeties en­shrined.

So while en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­brac­ing their en­try into the Hall — which will hap­pen tonight along with Kurt Warner, Jerry Jones and Ja­son Tay­lor — Davis, An­der­sen and Easley rep­re­sented their guys.

“The run­ning game is not just go to mini­camp and then train­ing camp in shorts and T-shirts and think you will be suc­cess­ful,” Davis said when the un­usual pres­ence of two run­ning backs in the same Hall class was men­tioned. “You need the pads on, need lots of hit­ting and rep­e­ti­tions. It’s like an orches­tra.

“I think now they are re­al­iz­ing in the NFL you’ve got to find other ways of get­ting the run­ning game go­ing.”

Davis pushed for more Bron­cos in the Hall. From the two Den­ver teams he helped win NFL ti­tles in 1997 and 1998, only John El­way and Shan­non Sharpe also are in.

“Steve At­wa­ter, Ja­son Elam, Rod Smith, [owner] Pat Bowlen,” he said, reel­ing off the names. “Those are ones I played with and I cer­tainly think they will all be in.”

At­wa­ter, a safety, played at the Univer­sty of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Smith, a wide re­ceiver, is from Texarkana.

An­der­sen joins Jan Stenerud as the en­shrined kick­ers; Ray Guy is the only pure punter in the Hall. Although An­der­sen is the NFL’s scor­ing leader and kicked for 25 sea­sons, it took him eight years of el­i­gi­bil­ity be­fore get­ting in.

Con­sid­er­ing the role kick­ers play, he be­lieves that will change.

“With my elec­tion to the Hall of Fame and the level of skill to­day, it moves the con­ver­sa­tion along,” An­der­sen said. “I would ar­gue that, be­sides the quar­ter­back po­si­tion, kick­ers af­fect the out­come of games more than any­one.

“There are a lot of guys I feel should be looked at more se­ri­ously,” he added, men­tion­ing not only kick­ers such as Gary An­der­son and the still-ac­tive Adam Vi­natieri, but spe­cial teamer Steve Tasker and punter Sean Lan­detta. “It’s a tight squeeze.

“It feels good to be on the other side, and now it’s my obli­ga­tion to en­hance their chances. I hope it’s not an­other 21 years where no one gets in.”

An­der­sen doesn’t ex­pect a spe­cial teams player to get in yearly, in­stead tar­get­ing “ev­ery three to five years.” Easley, se­lected by the se­niors com­mit­tee, is in more of a rush to see safeties in­ducted.

“We set the tone on de­fense,” the for­mer hard-hit­ting Sea­hawks star said. “We’re go­ing to get a lot of th­ese guys in the Hall. Be­tween John Lynch, At­wa­ter, Brian Dawkins, Dar­ren Wood­son — any of those four are fine, or all of them.

“I pre­fer all of them,” he added with a laugh, call­ing for a “megasafety class.”

Be­yond that quar­tet — Lynch has been a fre­quent fi­nal­ist in the vot­ing — Easley rec­og­nized an­other group that soon will be el­i­gi­ble.

“We’ve got a lot of guys com­ing be­hind them, you know, Ed Reed, Troy Po­la­malu,” Easley said. “We got some guys who [an­nu­ally] will be gen­uine con­tenders.”

Davis’ elec­tion was de­layed by ques­tions about such a short ca­reer: He played seven NFL sea­sons, the last two wrecked by in­juries. But the other five were spec­tac­u­lar.

His com­par­i­son, he noted, is Gale Say­ers, who also had a mer­cu­rial ca­reer but was a first-bal­lot en­try. That led to more cam­paign­ing by Davis.

“Now the prece­dent is re­set,” he said. “It should not be how long you played. What it should be based on is how well you played in the NFL.”

Asked about the ex­clu­siv­ity of any hall of fame, Davis said: “That’s what makes it spe­cial, ev­ery­one can’t get in.” Then he chuck­led. “But when you’re on the other side, you say, ‘Can’t they open the flood­gates and un­plug the hole and let guys in?’ ”

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