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.