First-year eligibles LaDainian Tomlinson, Hines Ward, Jason Taylor and Brian Dawkins are among 26 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2017.
Joining them as first-time semifinalists is tackle-guard Chris Hinton, who retired in 1989 but has made this cut for the first time.
The other 21 candidates – there was a tie for 25th in voting by Hall of Fame selectors as the list was trimmed from an original 94 – all have made it this far in the past.
Two coaches, Don Coryell and Jimmy Johnson, have made the semifinals. So has placekicker Morten Andersen, the NFL’s career scoring leader.
Finalists previously nominated by the veterans committee are former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley, and, by the contributors’ committee, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The 2017 class will be selected on Feb. 4, the day before the Super Bowl. Between four and eight new members will be chosen.
Inductions will be in August at the Canton, Ohio, shrine.
Also semifinalists are quarterback Kurt Warner; running backs Roger Craig, Terrell Davis and Edgerrin James; wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Terrell Owens; offensive tackles Tony Boselli, Joe Jacoby and Mike Kenn; guard Alan Faneca; center Kevin Mawae; cornerback Ty Law; safeties Steve Atwater, John Lynch and Darren Woodson; and linebackers Karl Mecklenburg and Clay Matthews Jr., the father of current Packers LB Clay Matthews III.
Warner, Bruce and Holt teamed up to win a Super Bowl with the Rams. Craig, Davis, Faneca, Law, Jacoby, Atwater, Johnson, Jones, Lynch, Woodson and Ward all own Super Bowl rings.
Titans QB Marcus Mariota named AFC offensive player of week
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 295 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-25 win over the Green Bay Packers.
The award was announced Wednesday.
Mariota completed his first 10 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a 149.8 passer rating. This is Mariota’s third offensive player of the week award. Warren Moon (six) and Steve McNair (four) are the only Oilers/Titans quarterbacks with more.
The second-year quarterback has 17 touchdowns and three interceptions over his past six games, along with two TDs rushing. Mariota is the first in NFL history to score four total touchdowns in six of his first 22 career starts.
Vikings make Forbath signing official after cutting Walsh
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Minnesota Vikings have finalized their contract with kicker Kai Forbath, their replacement for Blair Walsh.
Forbath kicked for New Orleans in 10 games last season after being let go by Washington after one game largely because the Redskins wanted to improve their kickoffs. Forbath made 87 percent of his field goal attempts (60 for 69) in three-plus seasons for Washington, the second-best rate in team history, but he had only 18 touchbacks in 2014, which was the second fewest in the league.
Between the Redskins and Saints in 2015, Forbath went 10 for 15 on field goals and 35 of 36 on extra points.
The Vikings also have signed rookie offensive tackle Rashod Hill off Jacksonville’s practice squad, after losing Jake Long for the season to an Achilles tendon injury.
Browns’ RG3 cleared for non-contract drills, not practicing
BEREA, Ohio – Robert Griffin III’s next comeback isn’t quite ready to begin.
Cleveland’s quarterback, who broke a bone in his left shoulder while making his debut with the Browns in the season opener, has been cleared for non-contact drills and could play again this season.
However, he won’t practice this week and it’s not clear when he’ll be back on the field. Griffin was on a stationary bike off to the side Wednesday as the winless Browns (0-10) continued preparing for Sunday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Griffin has been sidelined since breaking the coracoid bone in his shoulder at the end of a running play in the fourth quarter of the Sept. 11 loss to the Eagles.
There’s no guarantee RG3 will play in any of Cleveland’s last six games, but the Browns would like to take another look at the 26-year-old to see if he can be their starter next season and beyond.
Once he begins practicing, the Browns will have 21 days to decide whether to take Griffin off injured reserve and put him on the active roster.
Griffin signed a two-year, $15 million contract in March with the Browns, who were willing to give him a chance to revive his career after his four-year stint with Washington, which began so spectacularly, ended with his release earlier this year.
Griffin overcame a serious knee injury while he was with the Redskins, but he lost his starting job last season to Kirk Cousins and didn’t play a single snap.
With Griffin on their roster, Cleveland passed on a chance to take Carson Wentz in the draft and traded the No. 2 overall pick to Philadelphia.
Griffin’s injury was the first of several key ones for the Browns, who have been forced to play six quarterbacks. Rookie Cody Kessler, who was benched in favor of veteran Josh McCown in the second half last week against Baltimore, will start against the Steelers.
Cardinals’ Mathieu back at practice
TEMPE, Ariz. – Tyrann Mathieu returned to practice for the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday and said he was optimistic that he would be able to play when the team faces the Vikings in Minnesota.
Coach Bruce Arians also confirmed after practice that wide receiver Jaron Brown has signed an extension that puts him under contract through next season.
Brown is out for the season with a knee injury. The signing gives the team some protection should the Cardinals lose wide receiver Michael Floyd, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season.
Mathieu was limited in practice but said afterward that his shoulder felt fine. He was still wearing a brace on the knee that was surgically repaired late last season but was meeting with the doctor to discuss taking it off, which would greatly aid the mobility that is so crucial to the way he plays the game.
The defensive back was sidelined with a shoulder subluxation in Arizona’s loss at Carolina on Oct. 30 and missed Sunday’s 23-20 win over San Francisco.
He said removing the brace would clear “another hurdle” as he tries to get back to his aggressive “Honey Badger” performances of the past.
Tirico replacing Michaels for 4 NBC prime-time games
NEW YORK – Mike Tirico will replace Al Michaels as NBC’s play-by-play announcer for four prime-time NFL games .
Tirico, who joined the network this summer after handling play-by-play duties on Monday nights for ESPN, will work this Sunday night’s Packers-Redskins match. He also will do the Thanksgiving night game between the Steelers and Colts, and the Nov. 27 game between the chiefs and Broncos, partnering with analyst Cris Collinsworth.
That duo also will handle the Dec. 22 Thursday night Giants-Eagles matchup.
Tirico will work with Doug Flutie for the Dec. 17 Dolphins-Jets contest, and on Christmas night, the Ravens-Steelers game, which will be televised on NFL Network.
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