TAMPA — DT Warren Sapp and S John Lynch were among the reasons the Bucs defense of the mid 1990s through the turn of the century was the best in the NFL.
Thursday, they were among 127 nominees for the Hall of Fame. Also nominated were ex-Bucs receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell.
Sapp, 39, was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 and part of the team that won Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. He played nine seasons with Tampa Bay and four with Oakland and recorded 96½ sacks.
Lynch, 41, was a nine-time Pro Bowl pick with the Bucs and Broncos. Known for his bone-rattling hits, he played 11 seasons in Tampa Bay, including the Super Bowl team, and four with Denver, and had 26 interceptions.
Johnson, 40, played 11 seasons, including four with the Bucs, and had 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns. McCardell, 42, played 17 seasons, spending time with the Redskins, Browns, Jaguars, Bucs, Chargers and Texans, and had 11,373 yards and 63 touchdowns.
A committee of 44 voters will whittle the nominees to 25 in November. They will be narrowed to 15 plus two candidates from the senior committee on Jan. 15 with the final vote Feb. 2.
TALL TASK: The Bucs know they will have their hands full Sunday with Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III, the second overall pick and catalyst of the league's top scoring offense (33 points per game).
"Griffin will be one of the five fastest players on the field," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "So when he does decide to tuck it and go, there's not many people who can run with him. He's got a cannon for an arm. But there also is that shotgun run element, where there's triple option and double option. You've got a full plate to defend."
WELCOME BACK: Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris will visit Raymond James Stadium for the first time since getting fired as Bucs coach in January.
"Raheem is a great coach. He brings a lot of energy to practice," Griffin said during Wednesday's conference call. "He's a good presence on the sideline, and we love having him here."
QB Josh Freeman said while Morris knows him well, it won't give him an advantage.
"He doesn't know the system we're in. He doesn't know where we're trying to go with the ball," Freeman said. "I'm sure they've got a lot of good film, and he thinks he's giving them some tips. But it's going to be exciting; always great to see Rah."
HIGH PRAISE: Schiano has been impressed with RT Demar Dotson, who took over the starting spot Sunday in Dallas.
"The thing that I love is that he's constantly on that climb (of improvement)," Schiano said. "With his physical abilities, if he can continue that climb, he can be as good as there is."
Welcome back: Schiano was understated in his reaction to the league and officials agreeing to a new labor deal: "That's good. Players were eager for things to get back to normal."
"People were kind of upset with calls and things didn't go right," LB Adam Hayward said. "Those (replacement) refs didn't really know too much; didn't have time to be in the NFL. The game is a lot faster for everybody."
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.