By Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
Pro Football Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee on Wednesday named defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson as finalists for election into the Hall of Fame with the Class of 2013.
Culp and Robinson will join 15 modern-era candidates on the list of finalists from which the Class of 2013 will be selected on Feb. 2, 2013, the day before Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, La.
Even as Green Bay Packers fans welcomed Robinson's nomination, they complained that guard Jerry Kramer, most famous for his block on the winning touchdown against Dallas in the 1967 NFL Championship Game known as the Ice Bowl, was once again not named.
Culp is known as the NFL's first great nose tackle, and some say the best ever.
Robinson, a defensive linemen in college, was moved to outside linebacker and took pride in being one of the first black players at that position.
Culp was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round in 1968, but was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he played six seasons and became a key player in the Super Bowl IV championship.
Coach Hank Stram used Culp, an athletic former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion at Arizona State, as a nose tackle in that game, creating a mismatch for the talented but undersized Minnesota Vikings center, Mick Tinglehoff.
That was really only the beginning. After being traded to the Houston Oilers in 1974, Culp made his biggest impact at nose tackle in defensive coordinator Bum Phillips 3-4 alignment. Culp was dominant in the middle and was named NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1975 by Newspaper Enterprise Association.
Culp was selected to six Pro Bowls and earned first-or second-team All Pro five times. He finished his NFL career with the Detroit Lions.
Robinson, the Packers' first round draft pick in 1963 out of Penn State, not only moved from his college position of defensive lineman to outside linebacker, but he also helped as a kicker, a position he had not played since high school.
"I wanted to do whatever I could to make myself valuable," Robinson said.
Robinson had rare athleticism for a 6-3, 245 pounder and made an immediate impact at linebacker alongside middle man Ray Nitschke. Robinson helped Green Bay to three consecutive NFL championships, including victories in Super Bowls I and II.
After 10 seasons with Green Bay, Robinson closed his career playing two more years with the Washington Redskins. He was selected to three Pro Bowls, earned All-NFL acclaim three times, and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1960s. Robinson recorded 27 interceptions from his linebacker spot during a 155-game career.
A senior nominee for the Hall of Fame is one whose career ended at least 25 years ago.
---The Dallas Cowboys might not see Jason Witten in game action until mid-September, but the Pro Bowl tight end won't need surgery to repair a spleen injury.
ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reported Witten was told his spleen should heal on its own now that a tear in the organ has stopped bleeding.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten won't play again this preseason while he recovers from a lacerated spleen and internal bleeding.
Witten was injured in the Cowboys' Monday night game against the Oakland Raiders last week. Witten was examined the next day, and tests showed no surgery was necessary immediately.
The injury still might be serious enough to hold the veteran out of the Sept. 5 regular-season opener against the New York Giants. The Cowboys would then have 11 days before their Week 2 game at Seattle.
Witten has been the model of resiliency for the Cowboys, missing only one game in his 10-year career. That came in 2003 when he sustained a broken jaw. He has served as a security blanket in the offense since Tony Romo became starter. According to ESPN research, Romo has a 72.3 completion percentage on passes intended for Witten over the past three seasons.
With Witten out, fourth-year pro John Phillips figures more prominently. Rookies James Hanna and Andrew Szczerba are seeing extended opportunities.
---Cornerback Joe Haden was kicked out of practice by Browns head coach Pat Shurmur for rough play during the Browns' final public training camp workout Wednesday
Haden tackled wide receiver Travis Benjamin in the end zone following Benjamin's touchdown catch.
Shurmur told reporters they'd have to find out the details on Twitter, a veiled reference to team president Mike Holmgren's then-public comments to WTAM that Haden was removed from the field for being too rough.
Shurmur said the incident was unrelated to Haden's potential four-game suspension for use of an illegal substance.
Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said the incident was heated and that both parties "went a little overboard," in comments made to reporters coming off the practice field.
---Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis will not be penalized by the NFL for his role in a 2010 fight that led to a 45-day split sentence after he was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery.
Ellis, who served part of the jail term but has 22 days to complete beginning March 1, 2013.
Ellis was visited by coach Rex Ryan and owner Woody Johnson in his 23-day lock up before the start of training camp. He was initially charged with felony assault and battery after a fight in 2010 on the Hampton University campus.
Ellis, a third-round pick in 2011, is the Jets' backup nose tackle behind eight-year veteran Sione Pouha.
---Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul missed Wednesday's practice with back spasms and will not play Friday against the Bears.
Safety Will Hill was dismissed from practice due to a death in the family. He's expected to be available for Friday's game.
---The Jaguars are answering the phone, but they aren't intently listening to inquiries regarding holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew, per NFL Network, said through his agent that he's open to a trade but also agreeable to meeting the Jaguars in the middle on a new contract. Those different viewpoints from Jones-Drew apparently having changed the feeling of Jaguars' management as expressed -- and now repeated -- by owner Shad Khan.
Khan and general manager Gene Smith are holding their ground on the Jaguars' position in the matter, that they don't plan to budge.
"Train's leaving the station. Run, get on it," Khan said, adding that not having Jones-Drew was not a "great concern."
The gap between Jones-Drew and management seems to be widening, and it's unclear whether Jones-Drew will return in time for the Jaguars' Sept. 9 opener against the Vikings.
Jones-Drew, who was the NFL's leading rusher last season, wants a new deal, although he has two years remaining on his existing five-year $31 million contract. He's scheduled to make $4.45 million this season and $4.95 million in 2013.
---The Patriots got their first "live" look at newly signed running back Jeff Demps, the Olympic relay sprinter and former Florida tailback who received guarantees of $200,000 to sign with New England last week.
"It's just a blessing to come from the Olympics and come to a football field," Demps said Wednesday. "It's a blessing. Not many people do that, so it's just a blessing to do that."
Demps lined up at running back and also returned kickoffs in the Patriots' joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday. The Buccaneers and Jets were considered finalists for Demps' services.
In Tuesday's portion of practice open to the media, Demps' first two chances -- a pass from Brian Hoyer and a short, bounding kickoff -- went through his hands. But running backs coach Ivan Fears called Demps "courageous" for sticking his nose into the fray in blocking drills, and Demps expects to get back to speed easily.
"I always had a football background," Demps said. "I'm a football player first, so I'm used to just jumping right into it coming off of track season. So it was basically the same transition except the guys are a lot bigger."
Demps signed a three-year contract. He said he lost weight to participate in the London Olympics, where he ran the qualifying leg of the 4x100 relay for the United States team.
He rushed for over 2,400 yards and 25 touchdowns with the Gators but rarely trained with the team in the offseason while focusing on track.
"That's probably going to be the toughest part, just getting back into that football shape and learning the plays," Demps said.
The Patriots cannot place Demps on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he'll either be released, placed on injured reserve or make the team's final 53-man roster.
New England also activated two injured players from the physically unable to perform list -- offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and tight end Daniel Fells.
"They've both been making good progress and we've taken another small step." Belichick said. "Each day is a small step but in the end all those steps end up covering a lot of ground, and those guys have done that. Taking them off (PUP), this is a small step. Working them into practice gradually is a small step, and if they continue to progress then we'll continue to do more. If we need to back off a little bit, then we'll back off a little bit until they're ready to resume that progress. We'll just take it day-to-day."
---Rookie Nick Foles continues his climb up the quarterback depth chart of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Head coach Andy Reid said Foles would start if Michael Vick (ribs) doesn't play in Friday's preseason game at Cleveland. Reid said Vick wasn't likely to play as he recovers from bruised ribs.
However, Reid said the team is not concerned Vick won't be ready for the regular-season opener.
Foles' preseason passer rating is 118.4. He's 24 of 38 with 361 yards and four touchdowns. The third-round pick (88th overall) hopped injured Mike Kafka (fractured hand) on the depth chart and is ahead of veteran Trent Edwards.
In Monday's win over the Patriots, Foles was 18 of 28 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Reid was complimentary of his effort and said film review affirmed his assessment from the sideline.
Vick won't likely play again this preseason. In four series, he's suffered two injuries -- bruised thumb, ribs -- and went 4 of 7 for 11 yards. He also had one rushing attempt for five yards.
---Wide receiver Steve Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers missed practice Wednesday and went to a doctor for an examination of an infection in his left foot.
Smith also missed practice on Sunday because of the infection, but practiced with the team on Monday.
Coach Ron Rivera said he does not believe the injury is serious, but that he would know more after speaking with the Panthers' medical staff.
Smith is receiving antibiotics for the infection and has not been ruled out of Sunday night's exhibition game against the New York Jets.
Entering his 12th season with the Panthers, Smith is the clubs' all-time leader with 67 touchdowns, 699 receptions and 10,278 receiving yards.
Last season, Smith became the 35th player in NFL history to amass 10,000 receiving yards.
---Wide receiver Dez Bryant, who left Monday's practice because of what was diagnosed as patellar tendinitis, vowed to be ready for the Dallas Cowboys' regular-season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 5.
An MRI exam revealed no serious damage.
"I'm gonna be out there in New York," Bryant said. "You already know."
Bryant is expected to miss the Cowboys' last two exhibition games.