Players counting on having fun at Hall of Fame inductions even before game
CANTON, Ohio – The drudgery of training camp and the "honor" of opening the preseason with an extra exhibition game isn't bothering some members of the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals.
They were happy to attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction festivities on Saturday, which included Dallas running back great Emmitt Smith and former Cincinnati head coach Dick LeBeau, before facing off in the Hall of Fame game Sunday night.
"I can't wait to go see the Hall of Fame," said Bengals cornerback Pacman Jones, who spent part of the 2008 season — his most recent in the NFL — with the Cowboys. "I've never been there. This will be a great experience for me. It will open my eyes up to a lot of things. You go back and think of the history and all the work that everybody else put in."
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was equally pumped to do some sightseeing.
"I'm going to enjoy going to Canton just to check it out," Romo said. "Obviously the game is going to be super enjoyable to get out there and play, but just going and looking at the history of the game, checking it out and seeing the Hall of Fame. I love to read about sport as much as I can. I could probably end up being there all night, honestly, but I'm sure they'll kick me out at some point."
It will be the Cowboys' fourth Hall of Fame game and their first since 1999. The Bengals will play in their third and first since 1989.
JERRY ON EMMITT: It didn't take long for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to recognize how committed Emmitt Smith was to his craft.
Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson selected Smith 17th overall in the 1990 draft, one year after taking over the franchise and going 1-15. Smith would become the centerpiece of the running game, a member of the "Triplets" on offense, along with Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, and eventually the NFL's career rushing leader.
"He is the most successful goal-oriented player or otherwise that I've ever been around," Jones said. "When he came to the Cowboys, he said, 'I'm going to set the rushing record.' And right after he got to the Cowboys, he would come back and just sit in my office because, apart from being a ballplayer, he said, 'I'm going to be a businessman and I just want to sit there and listen to you during that time.'
"As far as somebody that can walk the walk, Emmitt does that. That's the way he approaches his business."
BACK IN CANTON: The Pro Football Hall of Fame expected 80 members to attend Saturday's ceremonies inducting Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, John Randle, Floyd Little, Russ Grimm, Dick LeBeau and Rickey Jackson.
Among them, the Hall listed Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, who formed the "Triplets" on offense with Smith and won three Super Bowl for Dallas. Rice's two favorite quarterbacks, Joe Montana and Steve Young, were scheduled to attend, along with safety Ronnie Lott.
Jackson couldn't have any of his Saints teammates who preceded him into the Hall on hand — he is the first New Orleans player elected. But Jackson did play in 1994 and '95 with the 49ers, making him a former teammate of Rice and Young.
LeBeau, who retired in 1972 from the Detroit Lions, expected his current players — he's the renowned defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers — to bus in from training camp.
Among Grimm's ex-teammates from the Redskins who are in the hall and were announced as being on hand were Art Monk and Darrell Green. For Randle, it was former Vikings guard Randall McDaniel and tackle Gary Zimmerman.
BERMAN'S PRIZE: ESPN's Chris Berman, a frequent host of the induction ceremonies, was given the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by the Hall of Fame for "longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football."
Berman, who as a youngster used to watch Joe Namath play at Shea Stadium for the Jets, has been with ESPN since 1979. He's covered 28 Super Bowls.
"This is the pinnacle you can reach during a career," Berman said. "After all, it's fun and games were are covering, and it's fun and games to being covering them.
"To see my name with Curt Gowdy and Ray Scott, it's humbling."
Peter Finney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was given the Dick McCann Memorial Award by the Pro Football Writers Association for his work through 65 years as a journalist in the gulf region. A member of the Hall of Fame selection committee since 1992, Finney has covered the Saints since their inception.
Ron Cortes of the Philadelphia Inquirer won the Dave Boss Award of Excellence for his photo entitled "Jackson's Parade" showing Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson sprinting down the sideline being chased by a host of New York Giants.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects to 1999 in 6th paragraph.)