Voters broke a logjam at cornerback, and began working on the glut of offensive linemen, as three first-time eligible finalists were voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed, and cornerback Champ Bailey made it through in their first year, and were joined in the class by cornerback Ty Law and center Kevin Mawae.
Mawae and Law were in their third year of eligibility.
They were joined by a pair of contributor nominees (Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former Cowboys scout Gil Brandt), along with one seniors nominee (Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson).
Without a truly controversial nominee (such as Paul Tagliabue or Terrell Owens), the meeting moved at a quicker pace than recent years, lasting seven hours, 50 minutes.
While sometimes players at the same position can cancel each other out, it didn’t become an either-or decision on Law and Bailey. Mawae was able to push through a crowded field of blockers, as tackle Tony Boselli and guards Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson were in the final 10, along with safety Steve Atwater and running back Edgerrin James.
Those eliminated in the first cut from 15 to 10 were coaches Don Coryell and Tom Flores, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, defensive end Richard Seymour, and safety John Lynch.
The offensive linemen, James, and Atwater stand a decent chance next year, as the group of first-time eligible players isn’t as strong as years past. Safety Troy Polamalu leads the list, along with wide receiver Reggie Wayne and linebacker Patrick Willis. A deeper group is coming up in 2021, when Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, and Calvin Johnson will be eligible.