CANTON, Ohio -- Career sacks leader Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and John Randle are among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the only first-year eligible players to make the final round this year.
Joining them will be two contributors: former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, as well as two senior nominees selected last August by the Senior Committee: former Atlanta defensive end Claude Humphrey and former Dallas wide receiver Bob Hayes.
Between four and seven candidates will be elected in the balloting that will take place in Tampa on Jan. 31, the day before the Super Bowl. The field was narrowed by the Hall's 44-member board of selectors from 133 to 25 before reducing it to the final 15.
Of the other finalists, only former Pittsburgh center Dermontti Dawson and former Seattle defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy have not been finalists before.
The rest: wide receivers Cris Carter and Andre Reed; defensive end Richard Dent; guards Russ Grimm, Bob Kuechenberg and Randall McDaniel; and linebacker Derrick Thomas.
Smith played from 1985-1999 with Buffalo, then spent four years in Washington. He finished with 200 sacks, the most since they began an official statistic in 1982.
Woodson, who played cornerback and safety from 1987-2003 with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Oakland -- and also played some offense -- had 71 interceptions. Sharpe, who played for Denver and Baltimore from 1990-2003, holds the records for receptions by a tight end with 815. And Randle had 137.5 sacks at defensive tackle for Minnesota and Seattle from 1990-2003.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press