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Warren Sapp makes finalist list for Pro Football Hall of Fame

TAMPA — By the end of a three-day reunion for the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII champions last month, defensive tackle Warren Sapp was hoarse from shouting down teammates and being the biggest barker at the banquet.

But when it comes to an argument about whether Sapp should reach the pinnacle of his profession, his performance during 13 NFL seasons still speaks the loudest.

Sapp took another step closer to Canton, Ohio, on Friday when he was among 15 modern-era finalists announced for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.

The selection committee meets Feb. 2 in New Orleans to vote on inductees for the Class of 2013.

"It's an honor to be in the conversation, let alone making it to the final round," Sapp said. "So many great players have played in this league. It would be a dream come true."

Sapp was not joined on the ballot by former Bucs teammate John Lynch, who was cut from a list of 27 semifinalists.

"I'm disappointed in one light and happy for our buddy Warren," Lynch said. "I think he belongs. I think he deserves to go on the first ballot. Any class, any year, he is a Hall of Fame football player. For four or five years I thought he was the best defensive player in football."

Sapp's resume makes him worthy of election on his first ballot.

A first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 1995 out of Miami, Sapp was the gold standard at undertackle and had 961/2 career sacks, including 161/2 in 2000. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and All-Pro on four occasions. Sapp was the NFL defensive player of the year in 1999 and the focal point of the league's top defense that produced five interceptions in a 48-21 win over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. (He later played four seasons in Oakland after nine with Tampa Bay.)

He also was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the '90s and 2000s.

To enter the Hall, a player must get votes from 80 percent of the committee, made up mostly of writers.

Sapp is part of a stellar group of first-time eligible players that includes former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, and Cowboys and 49ers offensive lineman Larry Allen.

"It's a great class, and that's the only thing I worry about (Sapp) not going in the first ballot," said Charean Williams, former president of the Pro Football Writers Association and a member of the selection committee.

"I do think it helps him with (Seahawks defensive tackle) Cortez Kennedy getting in last year. The same selectors that vote for the Hall of Fame select the All-Decade teams, and he was on two All-Decade teams, which means he was the greatest player at his position during that span.

"It's a very, very strong class, and you have to make some decisions somewhere. But I like his chances."

Tampa resident Eddie DeBartolo, a former 49ers owner who helped the franchise win five Super Bowls under his direction, made the final 15 for the second consecutive year. He hired legendary coach Bill Walsh and enjoyed a run of unprecedented success in the 1980s and '90s.

Other finalists are receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed; guard Will Shields; defensive end Charles Haley; linebacker Kevin Greene; running back Jerome Bettis, and defensive back Aeneas Williams. The senior candidates are nose tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.

A maximum of five modern and two senior candidates are eligible.

Staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.

.FAST FACTS

The Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists

• Larry Allen — Guard/tackle — 1994-2005 Dallas Cowboys; 2006-07 San Francisco 49ers

• Jerome Bettis — Running back — 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers

• Tim Brown — Wide receiver/kick returner/punt returner — 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders; 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

• Cris Carter — Wide receiver — 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles; 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings; 2002 Miami Dolphins

• Curley Culp — 1968-74 Kansas City Chiefs; 1974-80 Houston Oilers; 1980-81 Detroit Lions

• Edward DeBartolo, Jr. — Owner — 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers

• Kevin Greene — Linebacker/defensive End — 1985-92 Los Angeles Rams; 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers; 1997 San Francisco 49ers

• Charles Haley — Defensive end/linebacker — 1986-91, 1999 San Francisco 49ers; 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys

• Art Modell — Owner — 1961-95 Cleveland Browns; 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens

• Jonathan Ogden — Tackle — 1996-2007 Baltimore Ravens

• Bill Parcells — Coach — 1983-90 New York Giants; 1993-96 New England Patriots; 1997-99 New York Jets; 2003-06 Dallas Cowboys

• Andre Reed — Wide receiver — 1985-99 Buffalo Bills; 2000 Washington Redskins

• Dave Robinson — Linebacker — 1963-72 Green Bay Packers; 1973-74 Washington Redskins

• Warren Sapp — Defensive tackle — 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-07 Oakland Raiders

• Will Shields — Guard — 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs

• Michael Strahan — Defensive end — 1993-2007 New York Giants

• Aeneas Williams — Cornerback/safety — 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals; 2001-04 St. Louis Rams

Warren Sapp makes finalist list for Pro Football Hall of Fame 01/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 10:37pm]
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