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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sanders humbled among football greats

Sharpe, Sanders, and Faulk join the likes of Mike Ditka, Steve Young, Dan Marino, Michael Irvin, Terry Bradshaw, and Howie Long as Hall Famers working Sunday mornings. Rod Woodson recently left this group to take a job with the Raiders.

In the years to come you may see other studio analysts like Michael Strahan, Warren Sapp, and Bill Cowher joining the select fraternity within the fraternity.

Being on the west coast where a night out will often mitigate the need for a pre game show starting at 9am, I don't really have a strong take on any of the trio of new entries.

Who has a long term career in the industry and who could you see fizzling out? Should Marshall Faulk worry about an anti running back conspiracy as Emmitt Smith, Jerome Bettis (not inducted just yet), and Marcus Allen were quickly shown the door after brief stints.

Given there are now four channels utilizing similar formats, how about some innovation instead of imitation for a change.

Sanders said he was deserving of the Top 10 and, when pinned down in an interview by the NFL Network, said No. 4 was his rightful place on the list behind Jerry Rice, Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor.

But this weekend, Sanders showed a much deeper appreciation for the players and the greatness that preceded him to Canton.

Sayers could match the explosiveness of Sanders with the ball under his arm. Warfield was as graceful at his craft as Sanders with a fluidity at warp speed. Brown was every bit the bump-and-run corner as Sanders. It was Brown who invented that style of coverage in the 1960s, giving Sanders a template for perfection.

Barney was to the NFL in the 1960s what Sanders was in the 1990s with his combination of pass coverage and kick-return skills, plus the flair at which he did both. Except that Barney performed in Detroit, not San Francisco or Dallas.

Renfro went to more Pro Bowls (10) than Sanders at as many different positions (two), and Irvin is one of the few players in NFL history to play the game as loudly and with as much swagger as Sanders.

There also are more productive ballhawks in Canton (Dick "Night Train" Lane) than Sanders, faster players (Bob Hayes), more physical corners (Mel Blount) and better athletes (Jim Thorpe). Jack Christiansen was a more prolific punt returner and Sayers a more dynamic kickoff returner.

Deion’s tickets to Canton were his skills in coverage and the ability to translate touches into touchdowns. His recovery speed was legendary, giving him the ability to lock down any receiver on any route.

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