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Traffic Jam on Road to Canton

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images

PHOENIX, January 30, 2015 -- (Wire Service Report) -- Every Saturday before a Sunday Super Bowl there is a major traffic jam. No, not the hundreds of thousands of fans who descend upon the Super City of the year, which this year is Phoenix for a game that will be played Sunday in nearby Glendale. The traffic jam in question is the one that must be handled by the 46 selectors who meet each Super Saturday to determine the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inductees for that year. Once again that will be the task this Saturday in a closed-door, double-secret meeting that begins at 7 a.m. and ends, well, whenever it ends -- although by necessity that needs to be before a scheduled NFL Honors show that is televised nationally. This year's finalists include 15 players and coaches, a list that must be pared to no more than five, along with two contributors and one senior candidate. The contributors, Ron Wolf and Bill Polian, and the senior, former Minnesota center Mick Tingelhoff, were nominated by subcommittees. They will be voted on with a simple yes or no from the selectors. An 80 percent approval (yes votes from the selectors) gains entrance to the Hall of Fame. The rest of the candidates will be discussed long and hard. For many, this is not the first time. And this specific traffic jam of nominees who are dragged through the process for several years is one of the most painful parts of the process, both for the players and the selectors.

For the players, the emotional roller coaster is not only exhausting for them but impacts their immediate family and friends who find it hard to believe they were once again overlooked, at least to some degree.

After all, making the final list is an honor, right?

"Certainly it is an honor and we hear that once you make the list you will be in the Hall of Fame," offered former Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown. "Trouble is, nobody knows when. So we go through this year after year and it is hard on wives, children, friends." Brown should know. This year is his sixth as a finalist, putting him at the head of the waiting list with former San Francisco and Dallas defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley.

Just behind Brown and Haley is former running back Jerome Bettis, in his fifth year as a finalist. He is followed by former offensive lineman Will Shields and former linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, back for a fourth time.

Although their individual credentials do not change year to year, their fate is decided mostly by how the selectors perceive them against each year's list of finalists.

Brown still has those same 14,939 yards receiving, second only to the great Jerry Rice among current Hall of Famers.

Haley still has those five Super Bowl rings -- the most ever by a single player -- reflecting how he was a difference maker in the days when the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys dueled for the right to win a Super Bowl. He won two with the 49ers, then three with the Cowboys.

After getting so close the previous five years, this time they will be considered against some newcomers who made the finals in their first year of eligibility -- former linebacker Junior Seau, former quarterback Kurt Warner and his former left tackle with the St. Louis Rams, Orlando Pace.

"In your first year or two you have trouble understanding... and that never really goes away, but you have to put up with it," Brown said. "I hear people ask what difference does it make as long as you eventually get in?

"It makes a lot of difference. Not just because of what it puts your family through, but other reasons. Since I was first a finalist I lost my father and a close friend. I will never be able to share this with them. So, no, cannot say that it gets easier every year."

2015 Nominees -- In order of years as finalist

15 Players, coaches

Charles Haley -- 6th time finalist: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Tim Brown -- 6th time finalist: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Jerome Bettis -- 5th time finalist: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Will Shields -- 4th time finalist: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Kevin Greene -- 4th time finalist: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Marvin Harrison -- 2nd time finalist: 2014, 2015

Morten Andersen -- 2nd time finalist: 2014, 2015

Don Coryell -- 2nd time finalist: 2010, 2015

Tony Dungy -- 2nd time finalist: 2014, 2015.

John Lynch -- Last played 2007, 2nd time finalist; 2014, 2015

Junior Seau -- 1st time eligible

Orlando Pace -- 1st time eligible

Kurt Warner -- 1st time eligible

Terrell Davis -- Eligible since 2006, 1st time finalist

Jimmy Johnson -- Last coached 1999, 1st time finalist

Contributors

Ron Wolf

Bill Polian

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