MINNEAPOLIS – As Jerry Kramer becomes the Packers’ 25th representative in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, it’s worth turning the attention to what else might be on the horizon in this realm for Green Bay.
Here are three topics stemming from the NFL Honors gala held this past Saturday.
Charles Woodson almost certainly is next
The former Raiders and Packers great, who retired after the 2015 season, will first be eligible for the Hall of Fame with the induction class of 2021.
This year, three players are first-ballot inductees in linebackers Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis, plus receiver Randy Moss. Woodson has the credentials as a nine-time Pro Bowler to be a first-ballot inductee as well, and he mentioned on Saturday night that type of recognition would be meaningful to him.
“No question,” he said in a brief interview with packers.com from the NFL Honors red carpet. “If people respect your game enough, your contribution to the game, that they put you in the first time around, yeah it would mean a great deal if it were to happen.”
Is a door opening for LeRoy Butler?
Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf has said Butler deserves enshrinement, but over the years it’s been difficult for safeties to move to the front of the line.
That’s starting to change, with former Seattle safety Kenny Easley getting in last year as a senior nominee, and longtime Philadelphia safety Brian Dawkins going in this year, his second of eligibility.
In addition, John Lynch and Steve Atwater have both been finalists for the Hall in recent years, and Butler made the semifinalist cut this year for the first time. He was one of 27 modern-era players still under consideration before the cut to 15 finalists.
So if more attention is being paid to the position, perhaps the candidacy of Butler – the first defensive back in NFL history to eclipse 20 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career, and the inventor of the “Lambeau Leap” – could pick up steam.
What about Sterling Sharpe?
A neck injury reduced Sharpe’s brilliant career to just seven seasons, but with former Denver running back Terrell Davis getting inducted last year, and former Jacksonville left tackle Tony Boselli reaching the finalist stage this year, injury-shortened careers are getting additional looks now as well.
Sharpe’s seven seasons were impressive, to say the least. He led the league in receptions three times, receiving touchdowns twice and receiving yards once. He made five Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro three times. His 108 receptions in 1992 and 112 in 1993 were both NFL single-season records at the time.
Sharpe’s younger brother, tight end Shannon, is in the Hall. In his 2011 induction speech, he made a point to say he was the second-best player in his family.
For his part, the elder Sharpe said he doesn’t think about his chances.
“I have no idea,” he told packers.com from the NFL Honors red carpet. “I have never once lost sleep or thought about being in the Hall of Fame or getting in the Hall of Fame.”
Sharpe expressed how Green Bay was “the best situation” for him as a first-round draft pick out of South Carolina, because he loved playing for a team that was all about football, and he didn’t concern himself with the spotlight.
He’s taking the same approach now.
“I never think about the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I don’t know what the criteria is, I don’t know what the criteria was when I left the game.
“I enjoyed playing. I played to the best of my ability. I sleep very well knowing my brother is in. I know what he went through to get in, I’ve got a lot of good friends in, but I don’t think about me going in the Hall of Fame at all.”