The first full week of training camp came to a close this weekend with a nine-hour meeting that resulted in the enshrinement of eight individuals into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the annual Hall of Fame game, which featured the Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The lucky eight to be inducted are without further ado:
Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Junior Seau, Will shields, Mick Tinglehoff and Ron Wolf.
Jerome Bettis and Junior Seau are the most recognizable players from our age bracket; I’m only 24, but the impact that each had on the game is worth noting.
Jerome Bettis was a bell-cow of a running back with the rarest combination of size and agility. Arguably the only running back ever that could be confused with an offensive guard, yet on gameday go out there and wiggle his way to another 100-yard game week in and week out.
Tim Brown was an elusive wide receiver and return specialist that played 15-seasons with the Raiders and finished his career with 100 TDs (not too shabby).
Charles Haley, a relatively underrated player who did nothing but win. This guy had an unquenchable thirst for titles, he won five, FIVE! Haley is the only player to do so, Kase closed.
Bill Polian, a personal favorite of mine for his time working with ESPN, has a reputation for building teams set in stone. Named NFL Executive of the Year six times does not display the impact he had on the game and his contribution to both the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. Known for drafting Peyton Manning and wildly criticized for his openness to let go of Manning in light of drafting Andrew Luck, lets just say the guy knows football and he would be my first choice to run my organization. Junior Seau will always be remembered for the way he played the game. He truly is one of the greats. Regardless of his tragic death, he had first ballot written all over him since the day he stepped foot into the facilities of the San Diego Chargers. He helped lead the Chargers to their only super bowl appearance in 1994, was selected all-pro eight times and played 20 seasons in the NFL. In a touching moment, his children came to the podium and unveiled his bust.
Will Shields is a player that defines the offensive guard position with his toughness, intelligence and imposed his “Will” on countless opponents, pun intended. He started EVERY game in his 14-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs. This is the kind of player you could count on year in and year out. Took some time to get in but some way or another, he was going to barrel his way into the Hall.
Mick Tinglehoff, I may be too young to comment on this legend but he took the league by storm after signing to the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent out of Nebraska. I think there is something to be said with this year’s class in that toughness and durability have been rewarded. Tinglehoff is said to have never missed a practice and played in 240 regular season games.
Ron Wolf did many things to contribute to the game of football and he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame as one of the best men in front office the game has ever seen. Of the many accomplishments Ron Wolf had, I will recognize him for turning the Green Bay Packers back into a powerhouse in the 90s and also being the first General Manager for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, taking them to the NFC Championship game within the teams first five years. The guy had an eye for talent.
After the conclusion of the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, came the annual Hall of Fame game that featured the up and coming Minnesota Vikings against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that heads into this season with Championship aspirations. To quickly highlight the game, here are a few things I noticed about both teams: The Minnesota Vikings are committed to two things, Teddy Bridgewater and running the hell of out the football. This bodes well for a Vikings organization that hasn’t seen much success outside of Adrian Peterson’s spectacular 2,000-yard performance a few years ago, but they are, behind closed doors, building a team to be reckoned with. This offense is still relatively young but has a nice combination of power running inside and speed on the outside to keep defenders on their heels. This should be a fun team to watch as Teddy Bridgewater makes his case as an ascending young quarterback in this league. I think Bridgewater is the perfect example of how the draft process can totally ruin a players ability to be recognized for what they do between the lines and on tape, when they have a less than spectacular pro-day. He was the steal of the first-round in last year’s draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers really didn’t show much in this game and only scored three points. But didn’t Big Ben say they would average 30 points a game this year? Well, it is just the preseason but they aren’t exactly off to a hot start yet. Who cares though, it’s the preseason. However, there are some gems to look out for on this Steelers roster. Normally, steel is a relatively low conductor, with only 3 to 15% conductivity, but man is Dri Archer ELECTRIC! This second-year player out of Kent State blew scouts away with his 40-yard dash in last year’s combine and couldn’t really find his place in the NFL last season with the Steelers. But it seems as if Todd Haley did some extra work in the laboratory and drew up some plays to get this speedster the football. A lot of attention this year will go to Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell, and even more on Heath Miller and second-year receiver Martavis Bryant, but the real winner in all this is Dri Archer who will catch teams and defenders off guard with his otherworldly speed. He is literally lightning in a bottle. Draft him late in fantasy and look like a genius. On the defensive side of the ball, much of the reports have been about first-round pick Bud Dupree and is underwhelming performance thus far. He may take some time to adapt to this defense and find his role, but I think the real issue here is that a sixth round pick out of Miami, Fl has really got the coaches and reporters buzzing. Anthony Chickillo will slide his way into this Steelers lineup at some point or another- you heard it here first! Linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier will be the centerpiece of this defense. Timmons is a savvy veteran who will continue to leave his mark in this organization and take the next step in his career by becoming the leader of this defense. Shazier on the other hand, will be a pro-bowl selection this year and make the fans go crazy with his play-making ability. Watch for these two on the defensive side of the ball and if they can hold it down in the heavy run and pass game of the AFC North, the Steelers might have the pieces to get Big Ben a third Super Bowl ring. Other stories buzzing around the league are Jameis Winston being named starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota without an interception (yawn) and Cam Newton in a fight?!
To no one’s surprise the first and second overall picks are drawing headlines from around the League. Lovie Smith just named Jameis Winston the starting quarterback and this can mean one of two things. Either Winston truly is their guy, or they have no one else. I’ll take the former in that Winston has the skill set and intelligence to be a star in this league. So far so good, stay out of the headlines, Jaboo.
Marcus Mariota is still perfect? I think so. The Kid can’t do anything wrong. He’s leading the huddle like an introverted, yet seasoned vet and keeping the ball away from his defense. But to those of you who really know the game, this makes me scratch my head. Is it great that he hasn’t thrown an interception yet? Of course! But really, how many chances is he taking, how good is that defense, and are the coaches opening up their entire playbook? No one is perfect. Andrew Luck will be the best QB of this generation and he too, made mistakes. Maybe Mariota is perfect, maybe he is not- who knows? I did not realize that UFC had scheduled fight 191 without much notice and didn’t even offer it on pay-per view. I would pay to see Cam Newton in a fight, but not with his own team. At this time of the year putting your self at risk of injury over small matters is immature. Especially for Newton who has been very prone to injury apparently. Lastly, has anybody heard anything out of Cleveland? Manziel, where art thou ‘Money Sign?’ Johnny Manziel opted to let go of his infamous Money Sign and is taking, lets say, a more mature approach to this season. We all knew in college that Manziel was special, but wondered how his game would translate to the NFL. He has been clean thus far this offseason and having not heard many reports out of training camp, I’m assuming he is still destined for a second-team role. But wait, could there still be some Manziel Magic? I’m rooting for him in the preseason and would like to see him make waves and move into a starting role.
Master Chris of The Sports Kase