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Grimm reaches next level

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From staff and wire reports

Former Washington Redskins guard Russ Grimm, a finalist the past three years, is a semifinalist for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fifth straight year. Grimm was one of 25 semifinalists announced Tuesday along with newly eligible defensive end Bruce Smith and receiver Andre Reed, a 2008 finalist, each of whom finished with the Redskins after playing most of his career for the Buffalo Bills.

Grimm, now the assistant head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, helped lead the Redskins to four Super Bowls and three championships from 1981 to 1991. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl from 1983 to 1986 and was named to the NFL's All-1980s team. Grimm joined Joe Gibbs' coaching staff upon his 1992 retirement before moving on to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2001 and to the Cardinals last season.

Smith was joined by defensive tackle John Randle, tight end Shannon Sharpe and cornerback Rod Woodson as the four first-year eligible nominees. The list of 25 also includes past finalists Cris Carter, Richard Dent, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes, Bob Kuechenberg, Randall McDaniel, Paul Tagliabue, Derrick Thomas and Ralph Wilson. Roger Craig is the only first-time semifinalist among those previously eligible.

Selectors will reduce the 25 semifinalists to 15 finalists, who will be voted on along with seniors nominees Bob Hayes and Claude Humphrey in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 31, the day before Super Bowl XLIII.

BROWNS: Sickened by the latest home loss in a soap opera-like season sliding away, Cleveland owner Randy Lerner insisted he is as committed as ever to winning.

Sweeping change could be ahead for his disappointing-yet-talented team, but Lerner will wait until January before deciding on the future of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage.

During a rare interview, the intensely private Lerner addressed a wide-range of topics but steered clear of specific questions about Crennel or Savage, who are under fire with the Browns at 4-7 and out of the playoff picture one season after winning 10 games and sending six players to the Pro Bowl.

COWBOYS: Quarterback Tony Romo hasn't shed the splint yet.

Romo hopes to soon play without a splint on his throwing hand, but the protective device was still covering his injured right pinkie during the portion of practice open to the media.

"It's getting a lot better. ... I feel like I could probably get to a point where [I could be] playing without the splint this week," Romo said during a conference call with Seattle media. "I don't know if the trainers and doctors are going to let me, but I'm getting pretty close."

STEELERS: Pittsburgh, unable to get its running game going recently without Willie Parker, may not have Parker or four other starters for Sunday's key AFC game at New England.

Defensive end Brett Keisel could miss three games with a sprained medial collateral ligament. Coach Mike Tomlin also doesn't know whether cornerback Deshea Townsend (hamstring, doubtful), cornerback Bryant McFadden (broken forearm, questionable) and left tackle Marvel Smith (back, status uncertain) can play.

Smith has missed six games because of persistent back pain, and Tomlin said Tuesday he remains "status quo." Wide receiver Santonio Holmes sat out part of the Bengals game with a concussion but is expected to play.

SEAHAWKS: Running back Julius Jones will start on the road against Dallas in the Thanksgiving Day game, four days after being benched.

Coach Mike Holmgren says he expects Jones to be motivated to play against his former team. Jones was dumped by Dallas last season before he became a free agent.

This season, Jones has 637 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 11 games, including nine starts. Jones was a starter while Maurice Morris missed three games with a sprained knee early in the season.

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