Cris Carter and Darrell Green: Hall of Fame no-brainers? Print
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Thursday, 06 December 2007 09:26
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 Cris Carter and Darrell Green, the only first-year eligible players to make the semifinals in balloting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, deserve strong consideration for entry.
Not only were they among the best ever at their positions, but they were strong leaders on good teams.
Carter overcame some early off-field problems in Philadelphia to become a standout receiver with the Vikings, where he was Mr. Clutch. Carter's great hands and superb route-running helped him make 122 catches in consecutive seasons (1994 and '95); only Marvin Harrison with a phenomenal 143 in 2002 and Herman Moore with 123 in 1995 had more in one year.
If not for Carter's strong guidance, who knows how disruptive Randy Moss might have been in Minnesota - perhaps even as much as Moss was in his two disappointing seasons in Oakland before joining New England this year.
Carter also is well-respected by players and executives throughout the league for his outspoken but fair-minded comments on HBO's ``Inside The NFL,'' where he tackles most of the tough subjects, including Sean Taylor's death last week.
Carter, who often went up against Green during their careers, finished with 1,101 catches for 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns. An eight-time Pro Bowler, he ranks second in receptions and touchdown catches.
It was Carter who notified Green that both of them were on this year's ballot. They had become friends through Reggie White when both White and Carter played for the Eagles and Green was in Washington.
Washington is the only place Green called home in the NFL. He spent 20 seasons with the Redskins, starting nearly every game in his career and making seven Pro Bowls. His coaches always trusted Green to shut down the top opposing receiver - yes, including Carter - and he often delivered.
Green was known for his speed and, even at age 40, he was one of the NFL's fastest players. Carter estimates that Green probably could have run a 4.2 or lower in the 40-yard dash, ``but when you can always run 4.3 or 4.4, why do you have to?''
The last player chosen in the first round of the 1983 draft, Green had 54 interceptions. He was an exceptional punt returner, too. And his teammates always cited his strong religious roots and charitable affiliations.
It's often difficult to make the Hall of Fame in the first year of eligibility, but it's hard to see what could keep out Green and Carter.
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CHANGING FORCE-OUTS? Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, predicts the group will be talking about changing the rules on judging catches along the sideline this offseason.
``We've discussed it two out of the last three years. A couple of years ago we were very close to recommending that we discuss it and put it up for a vote. I think it will come up again,'' he said.
The biggest problem for critics? Officials asked to be objective throughout the game find themselves having to make a judgment call on whether a receiver caught the ball only to be pushed out by a defender.
Eliminating the rule then puts the burden on receivers to get both feet in bounds.
``If you eliminate it from the game, depending on what your perspective is ... you're going to reward the defensive player for a good play. Then you're going to have receivers up in the air that are 4 yards from the boundary, just simply carried out of bounds and the pass ruled incomplete,'' Fisher said.
Fisher said the call on the catch that could have lifted Cleveland to a win in Arizona instead of a loss could have gone either way.
``Because it's subjective, another crew may have called it a force-out. It's just what (the official) saw at the time and what his opinion was. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was the last play of the game,'' he said.
And yes, Fisher has his own feelings on the topic.
``We had one that should have been ruled a force-out in Cincinnati and was not,'' he said of a loss Nov. 25.
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START FAST, THEN FADE: Cincinnati's offense has fallen into a pattern characteristic of the team's entire season: start fine, then fall apart.
The Bengals (4-8) have scored on eight of their 12 game-opening drives this season, with seven touchdowns and one field goal. During a 24-10 loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, they drove 75 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown, then managed only one field goal the rest of the way.
It's a microcosm of their season. The Bengals opened with a victory over Baltimore, but have gone 3-8 since.
Why can't the Bengals keep those first-drive successes going? Perhaps they're getting outcoached.
The first drive of every game is scripted by the coaches. Once opponents see what the Bengals are doing, they adjust accordingly. The Bengals haven't done a good job of reacting to it.
``I don't know why it is,'' quarterback Carson Palmer said. ``We just come out and execute early, and we've done a good job of that. A little bit of it is teams have done a good job adjusting, figuring out what we're going to do and doing a couple of things different.
``We've got to figure out how to do that. We've got to figure out how to maintain that throughout an entire game. We haven't been able to do that. It's something we're working on.''
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GLENN CLOSE?: The Dallas Cowboys have kept Terry Glenn on their roster all season, and are willing to wait until the playoffs for him to catch his first pass.
Even after Glenn's second operation on his right knee in six weeks in mid-September, the 33-year-old receiver remained on the Cowboys' 53-man roster.
``It shows what impact that we feel he can make on our team,'' owner Jerry Jones said. ``It shows we think there is a realistic chance he can come back and help us.''
Glenn's rehabilitation has escalated to running, though he isn't necessarily running routes or making cuts yet.
``He is doing things that give you an indication that he's got a real shot here'' to play this season, Jones said after visiting with Glenn this week. ``He sure is positive and it's feeling good. His leg is good. When he is positive, I am positive.''
Jones said Glenn won't have to play in any of the last four regular-season games to be part of the postseason plans for the Cowboys (11-1).
While Jones was talking about Glenn, the receiver passed the group in the hallway with a trainer on their way to the weight room. Glenn kept walking, seemingly with no problem, without comment.
Glenn, after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Cowboys, had his initial surgery Aug. 1 to remove a cyst from the back of his kneecap. Six weeks later, after trying to return to practice, Glenn's knee started to swell and he had another surgery to remove loose cartilage.
With Glenn out, Terrell Owens has 71 catches for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns, already one more than his NFL-leading total last season and tied with Frank Clarke's team record set in 1962.
Patrick Crayton, starting in Glenn's spot, has 36 catches for 524 yards and his seven TDs match what he had combined in his first three seasons. Still, Crayton can't wait for Glenn to return.
``Personally, it would be good to have my big brother back. He's helped me be the receiver I am,'' Crayton said. ``It will be a big boost. It will be some fresh legs, another playmaker for a defense to have to game plan. ... No defense is going to ignore that.''
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AP Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati, Teresa M. Walker in Nashville and Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this story.
 

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