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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

T.O. among handful of active players with Canton credentials

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When news got out that hot-button receiver Terrell Owens was recovering from a torn ACL, the immediate reaction was his career was over -- even if his carnival-barker agent has denied it.

The next step was to decide if he was a Hall of Fame player.

It's foolish to think he won't be, or shouldn't be. The man should be a mortal lock.

He is second in yards receiving to Jerry Rice, tied for second for touchdown catches with Randy Moss behind Rice, and he's fifth in receptions.

Michael Jordan never had a slam dunk this easy.

Yet you hear some say he shouldn't get in or might not get in for simply being a problem player.

Is that what the Hall is all about? I think not.

Last summer during my training-camp tour, a group of reporters, including myself, talked with Owens about his Hall chances. He was quick to point out that he thought the perception of him would hurt his chances.

But the reality is all he's guilty of is a big mouth and saying and doing a few things that might turn off the morality police.

When it comes to football, there is no doubt he's one the greats. Owens' injury got me thinking about some of the other current NFL players and their Hall chances.

I did something in 2007 where I looked at some then-current players and evaluated their chances. I broke the chances down into four categories:

  • Welcome to Canton
  • On the bubble
  • Needs more work
  • No way

It's time to take another look at some of the league's stars and former stars still playing to gauge their Hall chances. Players are listed in alphabetical order and only players with six or more years of experience were considered.

Jared Allen will have to up his sack total to be in the Canton conversation. (Getty Images)  
Jared Allen will have to up his sack total to be in the Canton conversation. (Getty Images)  
Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Decision: Needs more work

He has 83 sacks, so he better pick up the pace to even really get in the conversation.

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders

Decision: Needs more work

He has been considered the best corner in the league at times, but has only 11 interceptions in his career. That will hurt. He needs to get with a winner to help his cause.

Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He was the next great corner after Deion Sanders. And he's still going strong, if not a bit behind his play of five years ago.

Ronde Barber, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Decision: No way

Barber has been a nice player, but no way he's an elite corner. Good, not great.

Tom Brady is a lock for the Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)  
Tom Brady is a lock for the Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)  
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He has three Super Bowl rings and two MVPs, and like Peyton Manning he has some good football left in that right arm.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Decision: Needs more work

He has won one Super Bowl and put up amazing numbers in five seasons with the Saints. But I just think he needs a couple more big years.

Brian Dawkins, S, Denver Broncos

Decision: On the bubble

Safeties fight an uphill battle to get in, but he has been a productive player for a long time, even if his play has tailed off the past two years.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Decision: Needs more work

His first seven seasons have produced huge numbers, but he needs to keep it going in an era with receivers who sport huge numbers.

Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts

Decision: Needs more work

He is closing in on 100 sacks and he's still playing at a high level. If he can get to 140 or so, he will get in.

Antonio Gates still has some work to do on his Canton resume. (Getty Images)  
Antonio Gates still has some work to do on his Canton resume. (Getty Images)  
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers

Decision: Needs more work

He has been a really good player for seven seasons, and he's on pace to catch more touchdowns as a tight end than Tony Gonzalez. But he needs a few more good seasons.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He's the all-time leader in catches by a tight end. That makes him an easy choice.

James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision: No way

He's been a good, at times great, player, but I just think he's a tad off from being a Hall player.

Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota Vikings

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He's been one of the league's best guards for a decade, getting named All-Pro seven times. Not bad for being the second-best offensive lineman from Coral Springs High School (I'm first).

Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams

Decision: Needs more work

He is 44th on the all-time rushing list, but he's only 27. With 2,052 yards, he gets to 10,000. Then he would become a sure candidate.

Andre Johnson is the game's best receiver and is right on track for the Hall. (Getty Images)  
Andre Johnson is the game's best receiver and is right on track for the Hall. (Getty Images)  
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans

Decision: Needs more work

He's already in the top 50 on some receiving lists, but he is 29 and has years to do even more. He's the best receiver in the NFL, so that is a plus.

Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens

Decision: Welcome to Canton

The best middle linebacker ever. Yes, ever. That puts him in, even if he isn't the same player he was a few years ago.

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He has his ring, he has the numbers and the MVPs, and he's far from done. He's a first-ballot lock.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Washington Redskins

Decision: No way

He has been a good quarterback, but not a great one. Unless he can do something in his final years, like win a Super Bowl, I just don't see it happening for him.

Forget the attitude, Randy Moss is a Hall of Famer. (Getty Images)  
Forget the attitude, Randy Moss is a Hall of Famer. (Getty Images)  
Randy Moss, WR, Tennessee Titans

Decision: Welcome to Canton

Yeah, yeah. I know all about him being a turd. But he has been one of the great receivers of all time. There's no denying his spot in Canton.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Decision: No way

There are too many receivers with better numbers and guys who will pass him in the next five years.

Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears

Decision: Needs more work

He would need to get his sack total from his current 89 to 140 or so in the next five years to have a chance. That would mean averaging 10 a year. Good luck.

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision: On the bubble

He has been a good player, but he has played 16 games only once in the past five years. He does have a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Safeties have a tough time getting into Canton.

Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens

Decision: On the bubble

He has been a playmaking safety, and a darn good one, but he has been hurt. But he does have 54 interceptions and a lot of interceptions and a lot of big plays.

Just because he has two Super Bowl rings doesn't mean Big Ben is a Hall lock. (Getty Images)  
Just because he has two Super Bowl rings doesn't mean Big Ben is a Hall lock. (Getty Images)  
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision: On the bubble

There are some who say his two rings make him a lock. I say he needs to do a little more. Hey, Jim Plunkett has two and he's not in the Hall.

Richard Seymour, DT, Oakland Raiders

Decision: Needs more work

He is coming off a good season, so he has some good football left. I'm not sure he can do enough to get into the Hall. He's out, unless he closes with a strong couple of years.

Darren Sharper, S, New Orleans Saints

Decision: No way

He has 63 interceptions, which ties Ronnie Lott for sixth all time and he has made a lot of big plays. But would you consider him great? I wouldn't. So he's not getting in.

Jason Taylor, OLB, New York Jets

Decision: On the bubble

He has 132.5 sacks, the same number as Lawrence Taylor, but if Chris Doleman, with 150 sacks, isn't in, why should Taylor be?

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, New York Jets

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He is sixth all-time on the rushing list and could get to fourth with another good season. He also has 144 rushing touchdowns, second to Emmitt Smith.

Two or three more Pro Bowl years and Brian Urlacher is in the conversation -- maybe. (Getty Images)  
Two or three more Pro Bowl years and Brian Urlacher is in the conversation -- maybe. (Getty Images)  
Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears

Decision: Needs more work

He looked on the way early, then was a bit overrated, had some injuries and bounced back to play well last season. If he can get two or three more Pro Bowl years, he's in the mix -- but a longshot.

Adam Vinatieri, K, New England Patriots

Decision: On the bubble

It's so hard to get kickers inducted, even with as many big kicks as he has had. He is 11th all-time in field goals made and he has a lot of backing, but there are nine active kickers with a better percentage of field goals made.

Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision: On the bubble

Steelers fans insist he is a Hall of Fame lock. They are wrong. He has been a good player, but his average of only 12.6 yards a catch will hurt him. He does have 954 catches, the same number as Moss, but Moss is way ahead in touchdowns and yards.

DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys

Decision: Needs more work

He's off to a great start in his first six seasons with 80 sacks. If he can continue at that pace for another five, he gets in for sure.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Decision: Needs more work

The glut of receivers with gaudy numbers from his era will make it tough on Wayne to get in. But he has time to do something about it and with three really good seasons he would go over 1,000 catches. That would count for something.

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys

Decision: Needs more work

He has more catches than Gates with 617, but his per-catch average is lower and he has only 39 touchdowns.

Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers

Decision: Welcome to Canton

He's in after the past two seasons. One more really good season will make him a lock. The Super Bowl run last season really helped his cause.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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