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Musick: Bears wait to add to Hall of Fame totals

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(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Brian Urlacher could be the next Bears player to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pop quiz: Name the NFL team with the most members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here’s a hint: It rhymes with Daaa Pears.

As it turns out, the competition isn’t even close.

The Bears boast 27 players, coaches and front-office personnel who have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. From Red Grange to Bronko Nagurski to Dick Butkus to Walter Payton to Richard Dent, the list offers a reminder of the Bears’ rich history.

It’s a list that could increase to 28 or 29 or maybe 30 by the end of the decade.

At least for now, the Bears will not add to their Hall of Fame roster. No Bears are among the 15 modern-era finalists and two senior finalists for the Class of 2013, which will be revealed today when voters select up to five modern-era nominees and up to seven overall nominees.

Good luck to anyone who tries to vote for the best five choices out of this year’s 15 finalists. No matter who gets in, more than a few deserving candidates will be left out.

The more those candidates are left out, the more competition they will face in coming years.

Take the Bears, for example.

Brian Urlacher is a surefire Hall of Famer as one of the great linebackers of the 21st century. He is the Bears’ all-time leader with 1,779 tackles to go along with 41 sacks and 22 interceptions. It’s only a matter of when he decides to start the clock on his eligibility.

Devin Hester had a rough season, but he could wind up as a Hall of Famer, too. He is the greatest returner in NFL history with 17 kick return touchdowns, and that doesn’t include his 92-yard score in Super Bowl XLI or his 108-yard return of a missed field goal as a rookie.

Is Charles Tillman a Hall of Fame defensive back? Maybe he wouldn’t qualify right now, but Tillman’s famous “Peanut punch” has changed the way kids play defense. He has 33 career interceptions and 38 career forced fumbles, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

It’s tough to believe, but it can be easy to overlook the 6-foot-7, 287-pound Julius Peppers. Three seasons remain on his contract, which offers plenty of time for him to add to his monster career totals of 111 sacks, 37 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries. Besides, do you want to be the one to tap Peppers on the shoulder and say he doesn’t belong?

And let’s not forget a few Super Bowl champion Bears who have not been enshrined, including offensive tackle Jimbo Covert, center Jay Hilgenberg and linebacker Wilber Marshall. Offensive linemen cannot compile eye-popping statistics like their teammates at skill positions, but Covert earned a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s, and Hilgenberg was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection while opening holes for Payton.

Of course, not everyone can make the Hall of Fame. That’s what makes it so prestigious. Every team probably has a group of players whom it feels has been wrongly ignored.

Today in New Orleans, at least a handful of candidates and their franchises and their fans will come away happy. Some could be first-time nominees such as Warren Sapp or Michael Strahan. Others could be returning nominees such as Charles Haley or Tim Brown.

Meanwhile, the Bears will have to sit back and wait for their next Hall of Fame member.

It shouldn’t be too long.

• Write to Northwest Herald columnist Tom Musick at tmusick@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @tcmusick.

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