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Redskins' Monk, Green headline HOF class; Tagliabue shut out again

2/2/2008 - NFL

PHOENIX -- Like the two old friends they are, Darrell Green
and Art Monk chatted about the latest news in their lives: making
the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Never mind that thousands of people were listening to the
conference call after Saturday's announcement. This was simply two
former Washington Redskins sharing verbal hugs after receiving the
sport's highest honor.

"May I just say to you when I first came to Washington, you had
just won the Super Bowl, you guys worked me over for nine weeks and
I hated all of you," Green told Monk, drawing laughter.

"I appreciate your words," Monk told Green, who covered Monk
in practices for years. "I was trying to hear some of the comments
that you made and I feel the same way. "

Other players joining Green and Monk included New England
linebacker Andre Tippett, San Diego/San Francisco defensive end
Fred Dean, Minnesota/Denver tackle Gary Zimmerman and senior
committee choice, Kansas City cornerback Emmitt Thomas.

Monk finally was chosen in his eighth year of eligibility. He
concluded his career after the 1995 season with Philadelphia, but
spent 13 years with the Redskins as one of the NFL's premier
receivers. Monk held records for career catches (940) and most consecutive games with a
reception (164). Both have been surpassed,
but Monk didn't play in as wide-open an era on offense as many
other receivers. He was one of the most consistent possession and
third-down receivers in the league throughout his 14 pro seasons.

"Whether I deserved to play in the NFL or deserve even to be in
Hall of Fame, I just loved the game, loved to play, loved being out
there," Monk said.

Green, one of the NFL's speediest and most skilled cornerbacks
for two decades, spent his entire career (1983-2002) with the
Redskins. He holds the record for consecutive seasons with an
interception (19), and had 54 picks for 621 yards and six TDs. A
member of the 1990s All-Decade team, Green made seven Pro Bowls.

"This is incredible. This is so special," Green said when
informed of the vote. "This is out of this world. This literally
transcends football, everything I have gone through to do what I
was able to do. It was more than the ability to run and cover. It
just goes so far beyond that."

The other player in his first year of eligibility, receiver Cris
Carter, was not elected. Carter finished his 15-year career second
on the career list in receptions and TD catches.

Inductions will be at the Pro Football Hall of Game in Canton,
Ohio on Aug. 2.

"I looked forward to the day we are going to Canton," Green
said, breaking up with emotion. "Hopefully, there are several
hundred thousand hotels there, and several hundred thousand
tickets."

Perhaps the most surprising outcome was that Tagliabue, again,
did not get enough support.

In his 17 years as commissioner, the NFL experienced no labor
stoppages, while its revenues from TV contracts skyrocketed. There
also were expansions to Jacksonville, Charlotte, Cleveland and
Houston under his watch, and several teams moved into new stadiums,
many of them built with public funds.

But many, including some reporters on the 44-member selection
committee, found Tagliabue unapproachable and uncooperative.

Also failing to get in were Redskins guard Russ Grimm, Buffalo
Bills receiver Andre Reed, Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy, Denver
Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar, Chicago Bears defensive end
Richard Dent, Miami Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg, Vikings guard
Randall McDaniel, and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.

Senior committee nominee Marshall Goldberg was not elected,
either.

Tippett, the Patriots' director of community
affairs, was considered the best linebacker in the AFC during an
era when Lawrence Taylor ruled the other conference. An outstanding
pass rusher who also could handle coverage, Tippett was a force
against the run after a stint in junior college and a standout
career at Iowa.

"This is by far the proudest moment of my professional football
career," said Tippett, who made the NFL's 1980s All-Decade team
and waited 10 years for this day. "I will be joining the greats of
the game and I am deeply honored."

Tippett said he had plenty of support from the Patriots' Super Bowl
traveling party as he waited to learn whether he was headed to
Canton.

"Everybody, from day one when we got here, they were like,
'Hey, we're looking to do something special -- you on Saturday and
us on Sunday,' " Tippett said on Saturday. "It couldn't have
happened at a greater time."

Surrounded by family, team employees and fans, Tippett watched
the Hall of Fame announcement on television in the lobby of the
team's headquarters hotel in nearby Scottsdale.

"When they said, it, man, the whole lobby just broke out in an
uproar," Tippett said. "It was overwhelming a little bit. I
looked soft for a little while, but that was OK. It was a good
thing. It was cool that people were able to share that with us."

Tippett immediately jumped into a car for the long drive to
downtown Phoenix, where he met with the media. He said his cell
phone buzzed the whole way. "I've gotten a ton of text messages
from [linebacker Mike] Vrabel and [quarterback Tom] Brady and a
couple of the other guys,'' Tippett said.

It was a big change from a year ago, when Tippett was passed
over after reaching the finals. He retired in 1993 and waited 10
years for election.

"Last year was tough, but the nice thing about it, I was home
alone, so nobody saw me lose it," he said. "When I saw the class
and didn't make it, you know, I've gotten this far, you might as
well put me in."

Although he weighed only 230, Dean was a fearsome pass rusher
because of his speed and agility; blockers struggled to get their
hands on him. He starred with the Chargers from 1975-81, then with
the 49ers from 1981-85.

"All I can say is thank you. I am trying to get my heart in
order, it's still racing," Dean said.

Zimmerman was a standout for the Vikings from 1986-92 and the
Broncos from 1993-97, winning a Super Bowl in his final season. He
made his reputation in the USFL before joining Minnesota.

"I am in shock right now," Zimmerman said.

Thomas, who also was Green's position coach for years in
Washington, was a superb bump-and-run and coverage cornerback for
the Chiefs from 1966-78. He was the interim coach of the Falcons at
the end of the 2007 season and has been retained as an assistant by
new coach Mike Smith.

Thomas was thrilled with the company he is keeping, most
specifically Green and Monk.

"Those guys have high character. I'm proud to go in with
them."