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.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Michael Irvin
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A couple of tidbits as I return from some time off:
The NFL’s draftees are in Canton this week for the annual rookie symposium, a plan last in place back in 2008. A brainchild of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who thought it was important young players understand the history of the league, the draftees get to see the Hall of Fame while attending seminars how to deal with life as a pro athlete. Below is a picture of some Cards’ rookies looking at a Hall display (that’s Nate Potter on the left, Michael Floyd on the right). There’s also a shot of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who grew up in a military family, checking out the Pat Tillman display. (A photo gallery is here.)
— In other news, longtime ESPN anchor Chris Berman, who has been the face of that network’s TV coverage, will finally get a chance to do a couple games of play-by-play in the NFL this season. The network trumpeted his placement on the second “Monday Night Football” game of opening weekend — Chargers at Raiders — with the annual doubleheader that night, working with Trent Dilfer. But Berman’s actual debut in the booth for play-by-play will be a couple weeks earlier, calling the Cardinals’ preseason game in Tennessee that will be televised nationally on ESPN.
“That’s great news,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Berman’s move to the booth. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who brings more enthusiasm and passion to his job than Chris Berman. For a lot of fans and people involved with the game, Chris is synonymous with the big time NFL events so this it’s exciting that he’s doing our preseason game against the Titans.”
Tags: ESPN, Hall of Fame, Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Floyd, Michael Irvin, Nate Potter, Pat Tillman
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
When all that noise cropped up around the Cardinals in January of 2009 – the stuff about that team being the worst in playoff history, etc., etc., — I remember thinking, “This team is better than the last Cardinal playoff team.”
Turned out both squads ended up shocking the world. Back in 1998, it might have been an even bigger deal.
The Cards barely squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card (remember, the 2008 Cards clinched the division relatively early). Their first playoff game in years would come in Dallas, against the NFC East rival Cowboys – a team that had beaten the Cards 16 of the previous 17 meetings and who had crushed the Cards, 38-10, in Dallas to open the 1998 season. Forget Cris Collinsworth. The general feeling of the Cards was as a team lucky to be in the playoffs, and probable to fall to the Cowboys – a once-great team that was very ordinary by this time.
The numbers added fuel to the critics’ fire, especially the weakness of the Cards’ schedule (Arizona’s opponents had a .395 winning percentage). On the other side, there was a young team with so much future potential, like rookie defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who at that point was improving after his crazy debut in Dallas earlier in the year (Oh, what could have been). Jake Plummer was the quarterback who was definitely a winner. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was a Pro Bowler who was one of the few in the NFL who had proven he could handle star Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.
The Cards, at that point, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1947 – the year they won the NFL championship. “My Dad wasn’t even born yet,” guard Chris Dishman said. They had history against them, and a still-potent Emmitt Smith (if you would have suggested then that Smith would eventually be a Cardinal …), but the Cards had played the Cowboys close at Sun Devil Stadium late in the year.
Foreshadowing? Not really. Not after the Cowboys scored 38 and 35 on the Cards in the two regular-season games, only to be shut down for seven points in the playoff game. The Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in a 20-7 win, and that Dallas touchdown came late, with the game all but decided. The cornerback tandem of Corey Chavous and Williams had three interceptions, and safety Tommy Bennett added one in the final seconds for emphasis. Wide receiver Frank Sanders hauled in a 59-yard Plummer pass to set up a score and running back Adrian Murrell broke off a 74-yard run to set up another.
That was all the Cards really needed, the way the defense performed. Slaying the Cowboys was about the present but it was also about unloading on the pre-game disrespect. It was about a fan base starving for success.
It was also short-lived.
The Cards turned their attention to the powerful Vikings for the following week, but that didn’t end well. In the offseason, the Cards lost key players like Larry Centers, Lomas Brown and Jamir Miller and never did battle again for a playoff spot until the magical season a decade later –with the 2008 team that supposedly had too many warts itself. That ride lasted a lot longer.
But for those moments in 1998, when it seemed like the Cards were never going to have any success, the Dallas domination was something to savor.
Tags: Adrian Murrell, Aeneas Williams, Andre Wadsworth, Chris Dishman, Corey Chavous, Cowboys, Cris Collinsworth, Emmitt Smith, Frank Sanders, Jake Plummer, Jamir Miller, Larry Centers, Lomas Brown, Michael Irvin, playoffs, Revisionist history, Tommy Bennett, Vikings
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