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Aeneas Williams gets his Hall of Fame Gold Jacket

Posted by since1898 on August 2, 2014 – 8:48 am

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The history of the NFL, live and in person

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2014 – 8:30 am

The main part of Hall of Fame weekend comes tonight, when the seven-man class is officially inducted here in Canton, when the men all give their (often emotional) speeches and the busts are unveiled. But Friday night was significant as well. The new enshrinees were given their new gold jackets during a ceremony, but that itself wasn’t what really got my attention.

Instead, it was the realization — granted, with the help of thunderous NFL Films music and the electricity of the crowd — that as every returning Hall of Famer was introduced, one by one, how the history of the NFL was suddenly playing out in one tangible moment. Former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams, who is one of this year’s seven, said that the meaning of being put in the Hall of Fame is that “‘When they say the Hall of Fame, they’re saying they can’t tell the history of the NFL without including you.”

Of course, that’s the point of a Hall of Fame, to mark the history of, in this case, pro football. Still, to see the legends you grew up watching all in one place is special. A living, breathing textbook of the NFL. This is more than just a bust of a guy. It’s Aeneas Williams, at the end of his “gauntlet” walk through dozens of Hall of Famers, getting to the end and sharing an emotional hug and tears with one-time fierce rival Michael Irvin.

It can’t help but be memorable.

Aeneas.IrvinHugblog


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Abraham expected in camp soon

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2014 – 12:23 pm

In a special long-distance Cardinals update as I fly to Canton for Aeneas Williams’ Hall of Fame induction, the big news was Bruce Arians’ comments on absent linebacker John Abraham. Arians said “He will be here soon” and added he expects Abraham in “five or six days.” For a veteran like Abraham, missing a couple of weeks of training camp really won’t make a big impact. But it’ll be good for the Cardinals to have him return. Other tidbits from Arians after the morning walkthrough:

– RB Andre Ellington and DT Dan Williams are returning to practice, but WR John Brown (hamstring) is going to sit out. Arians does not believe it is serious and at first, Brown had been hoping to practice today. The Cardinals are going to play it safe.

– Arians said safety Tyrann Mathieu is anxious to get back to practice. “He’s begging me to come off PUP.”

– The addition of veteran Max Starks will give the Cardinals “quality depth and competition” and can play both tackle spots, Arians said. Still pleased with how Bobby Massie is doing. Arians also said he likes the idea of having veteran tackles on the field in the preseason. That makes sense. Quarterbacks can get under fire when you get deeper in the depth chart on the offensive line. Starks will practice with the second unit on both sides. Starks lives in nearby Fountain Hills, so it’s not like he even had to fly in.

– No true comparison to bringing in Eric Winston a year ago, Arians said, because of the confidence Massie has now earned.

– As for the Cardinals other top reserve tackles, Nate Potter is having a good camp, Bradley Sowell has been “OK,” Arians said.

– Arians had big praise for safeties Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson. May make it tougher for Deone Bucannon to crack the starting lineup, but he’s done well as “dollar” linebacker in the nickel.

– Arians wants LB Alex Okafor to bring his motor up to run “hot” all the time like fellow linebacker Sam Acho. Arians has been very happy with Acho’s play.

– If you get a chance, please check out my big Aeneas Williams’ story as a lead-in to Saturday’s induction.


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A day off, camp observations and tidbits

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2014 – 2:59 pm

The Cardinals got a day off today from practice before doing two more workouts Friday and Saturday, which is the Fan Fest workout. After slamming into each other for three straight days, it’s good to get a reprieve. And to think, with practice just across town at University of Phoenix Stadium, it’s easy to pop home for the day. I know I appreciate it.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” running back Jonathan Dwyer said. “Get your mind away from football for a day. Guys who have family can spend time with their young ones, like myself. Just rest our bodies and come back to work the next day.”

– Speaking of Fan Fest, click here for all the details of the practice.

– What stood out through the first five days of practice? WR John Brown, obviously. Confidence in CB Justin Bethel’s progress. Thinking that TE John Carlson, if he can stay off the injury report, could have a very nice year catching the ball. Kareem Martin is going to have a key role on the defensive line, I think. Michael Floyd is destined to improve on his season a year ago.

– I’m off to Canton tomorrow to cover the induction of cornerback Aeneas Williams into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday. I’ll still have stuff on the blog from both Canton and training camp, and my cohort Kyle Odegard will be the boots on the ground at University of Phoenix Stadium. He did a nice piece on Bobby Massie today. Speaking of Aeneas, I hope you’ve been checking out all the content on the special Aeneas Williams page (azcardinals.com/aeneas). I’ll have a big story on Williams posted tomorrow first thing.


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Keim perspective as pads go on

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 9:25 am

The Cardinals will put on the pads for the first time this afternoon, which changes the dynamic of training camp. That was part of the theme today when GM Steve Keim went on the Doug and Wolf show on Arizona Sports 620 this morning — what will happen when the pads go on.

– Keim wants to see rookie WR John Brown in pads, and see what the kid can do coming across the middle when, say safety Deone Bucannon is about to drill him. That’s not a big surprise, since it’s what everyone has been saying about Brown. He’s been impressive. “We haven’t been able to cover him,” Keim said. But that could change when the pads go on. As Patrick Peterson said, after Brown burned him on a play, “I told him he’s not going to be that much faster than me when he’s got those shoulder pads on.”

– Keim said he thought right tackle Bobby Massie looks like he’s in the best shape of his career (and I have always thought Massie was in pretty good shape anyway) and “he looks focused.” But Keim wants to see Massie in pads too, and frankly, that’s the only real way to judge linemen.

– The GM admitted to having a concern in the offseason for guard Jonathan Cooper after noticing a “little limp,” but the first two practices have erased those concerns.

– Keim acknowledged that taking Patrick Peterson off punt returns is in part because the Cardinals haven’t had as much return success with Peterson doing that job the last couple of years.

– Asked about absent linebacker John Abraham, Keim said “I’m not concerned at all. He’ll be back at some point here and Bruce (Arians) has excused him for personal matters.”

– With Aeneas Williams going into the Hall of Fame Saturday, we have created a page for Aeneas (azcardinals.com/aeneas) where all the stories and videos about Williams will live. Check it out.

 


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Warner in, so who’s next for Ring of Honor?

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 4:37 pm

The timing made all kinds of sense for the Cardinals to put Kurt Warner in the Ring of Honor this season. There is a high-profile “Monday Night Football” game in which to do the ceremony (if you have forgotten, Aeneas Williams also went in at halftime of an MNF game) and this is the first year Warner is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame — which would happen in downtown Phoenix the day before the Super Bowl here in Arizona, if it were to happen. In a lot of ways Warner was a supernova in Arizona considering he played just five seasons (and barely played in one of those, 2006, when Matt Leinart was trying to make his way in the league.) It was an incredible run though (as this timeline and this top 10 list of his best games says more tangibly.)

So who is next?

We already know Adrian Wilson will get there. Michael Bidwill has already said as much. First, though, Wilson has to retire, and he’s not ready to do that quite yet as he hopes to find a job somewhere in 2014. At some point, you figure Larry Fitzgerald is a lock, regardless of what happens in the future. Obviously the hope is that Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona, but the NFL is a business and Fitz staying is anything but a guarantee. Certainly, he’s done enough on and even off the field that he’ll be Ring-bound some day.

Beyond that, though, I don’t see any sure bets. It’s way too early to think about Patrick Peterson. Does Darnell Dockett warrant a discussion? Could Calais Campbell some day be worth it? I think Anquan Boldin was headed in that direction, but the way his tenure (and his last two seasons) ended in Arizona I’d call that a very long shot, which is too bad. He was a part of the renaissance of this franchise. I don’t know if some of the other guys from the 1998 team — a Larry Centers, a Jake Plummer — would fit.

Again, with Bidwill noting  that 11 of the 13 previous Ring members before Warner are in the Hall of Fame, that means something. They are, Bidwill said, “the best of the best” and that’s a lofty ideal. The franchise has been around since 1898, and only 14 guys have gone in. It’s not an easy honor to obtain. It is a fun subject to debate.

JackInTheADub

 


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Warner and his potential Az Hall call

Posted by Darren Urban on April 8, 2014 – 1:50 pm

Aeneas Williams will kick off the 2014 season for the Cardinals, in a manner of speaking, when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as training camps are just getting underway. Maybe the Cards will have a Hall of Fame connection as the season is wrapping up, and the NFL prepares to play the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. That’s when Kurt Warner will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

If Williams is the best draft pick the organization has made since the franchise moved to Arizona, then it’s probably safe to say Warner was the best free-agent signing. His time with the Cardinals had an interesting arc, from veteran stop-gap to placeholder for Matt Leinart to franchise QB, all in the span of five seasons. As weird as it was, Warner wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame discussion without his Arizona rebirth. His major personal success (his Super Bowl win and two MVPs) came with the Rams, but he arguably had his greatest accomplishments leading the Cards.

(He definitely played more games in Arizona. He finished with 61 games as a Card, compared to 53 as a Ram and 10 as a Giant.)

So, with the fifth season about to start since Warner retired, the potential Hall of Fame call comes for the first time after the season. Warner, having watched one-time teammate Williams get in, admits he already thought about that possibility.

“It’s hard not to think about it because people always want to ask you about it,” Warner said. “But I try to be realistic. One of the things with athletes, we’re not very realistic with situations. We always think we are the best. But I am realistic with the route it took me to get here and maybe some of the strikes against me, that maybe I didn’t play as certain people or had some bumps in the road. I don’t know if (the Hall of Fame) is going to happen. I don’t know what really determines it. But the great thing is, I am so completely content with what I accomplished on the football field.

“I did some things no one has ever done before. I think I played at a Hall of Fame level, at least for a period of time. Does that constitute me being put in the Hall of Fame? I have no idea. I just know I put in the work, and now it’s up to somebody else to wade through and figure out what belongs there. Obviously, from the time you are little, you want to make your mark in whatever you do. For me, it was the National Football League. To finally be here, and to have a lot of people think you will finally get there, you can’t help but think about it and how special it would be.”

WarnerHoF2USE

 


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Aeneas Williams visits his future home, the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Posted by since1898 on April 2, 2014 – 9:30 am

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#ThrowbackThursday – HOFer Aeneas Williams with Pat Tillman, Kwamie Lassiter in 1999

Posted by since1898 on February 6, 2014 – 1:46 pm

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Aeneas deserves his Hall call

Posted by Darren Urban on February 1, 2014 – 9:36 pm

It was great news Saturday when Aeneas Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame. He was deserving, and it was good to see that his talent and performance over the years wasn’t tossed aside because his teams rarely won much. I only got to cover Williams at the end of his Cardinals’ tenure, but he was a great guy. He had had it with the losing in Arizona at the end, which is why he basically forced the trade in 2000 that sent him to St. Louis. He said he was seriously thinking of retirement, and of course, he played four more seasons with the Rams. Williams, now a pastor in St. Louis, probably solidified his Hall-worthiness with that Rams’ stint. But his foundation was made with the Cardinals.

Aeneas had a ton of highlights, like locking down Michael Irvin, or his big interceptions in the 1998 playoffs — against Dallas, or even accidentally ending Steve Young’s career. But one of the big ones I remember is his NFL-record-tying 104-yard fumble return for a touchdown, sparking an improbable home win st Sun Devil Stadium over the Redskins two days before the stadium vote. The vote passed — barely — to create the bonds for University of Phoenix Stadium, and it was hard to feel like that big win didn’t have some impact.

(And some have asked, but it’s a moot point of “whether Williams goes into the Hall as a Cardinal or a Ram.” In football, the busts don’t have any team affiliation. It’s not baseball, where the bust has a hat.)

Looking ahead, there is a chance the Cardinals could have Hall of Famers in back-to-back classes.

Quarterback Kurt Warner is eligible for the first time next season, and many think Warner is a strong Hall of Fame candidate. It’d be interesting to have Warner make it in during a Super Bowl week here in Arizona, where next year’s Super Bowl will nbe held. Then again, Warner might have a tough time getting in during his first chance. There are only a maximum of five modern-era inductees put in every season. In addition to Warner here are some of the first-time eligible players next season: Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, Rams tackle Orlando Pace and Colts/Cardinals running back Edgerrin James (I didn’t realize they all retired at the same time.)

That doesn’t include the guys who haven’t yet gotten in: Chiefs guard Will Shields, Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.

AeneasForHoFBLOG


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