January 08, 2016

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Broncos aren't well-represented in the Hall of Fame with just four enshrined players who made their mark in Denver. That could change with Terrell Davis, John Lynch and Steve Atwater among this year's modern-era finalists.

The knock on Davis is that his career was cut short by a knee injury, although there are six running backs in Canton that played fewer games. Atwater and Lynch, who won his title in Tampa but capped his career with an outstanding four-year run in Denver, have their own historic hurdles.

There are only seven pure safeties in the Hall of Fame, not counting Ronnie Lott, who began his career at cornerback, and none of them played after 1980.

''I look at that all the time and I just find that extremely odd,'' Atwater said. ''It's like we're not even a part of the team.''

He hopes that's about to change.

''If not this year, the next several years, I'm sure a pure safety will be going in,'' he said. ''If not me and John, it will be some other guys coming right up in a few years.''

With Lynch getting his third shot and Atwater his first, momentum might finally be building for a safety to get inducted.

Lynch said he's stumped as to why more safeties that have played in the last 35 years haven't gotten their due.

Former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, who's a third-time Hall of Fame finalist himself, helped change the position when Lynch arrived from Stanford in 1993.

''I'll never forget getting to Tampa and Tony Dungy said, `Hey we're going to do some neat things and really change the way that this position has been played. We're going to blitz you. We're going to play you down in the box. We're also going to play you back. We're going to cover you.' That's why I think it's such an impactful position,'' Lynch said.

''All you have to do is turn on the playoffs. Anytime over the last 10, 15, 20 years you tend to see a safety taking over the playoffs because you can at that position because you're featured in so many different ways.''

Along with the Colts - Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James - the Broncos are the best-represented among this year's 15 modern finalists. The Broncos already enshrined are John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Gary Zimmerman and Floyd Little.

Lynch is also stumping for Davis, whom he said was ''the best going'' for a stretch of several seasons in the late 1990s.

''I know there's the argument about longevity, but I think there are other guys in the Hall of Fame (that played) around the same time and he's been more productive,'' Lynch said.

Davis played from 1995-2001 and joined Jim Brown as the only running backs in NFL history to average more than 100 yards a game, counting regular season and playoffs.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Friday a lot of great running backs had short careers.

''That's a tough position to play 10 to 12 years,'' Kubiak said. ''I know one thing, how long was his career? Seven or eight years, am I right? Man, was it special. He was a difference-maker to our organization and our football team getting over the top.''

Davis is the only running back in league history to own back-to-back Super Bowl titles, an MVP trophy, a Super Bowl MVP honor, a 2,000-yard season and seven consecutive playoff wins in which he topped 100 yards rushing.

''If you looked at what I was asked to do and if you take whatever the time I played, there was nothing that I didn't accomplish,'' Davis said. ''... When the moments were big, I didn't shrink in the big moments. I played some of my best football in the postseason and in big moments.''

Notes: Backup QB Brock Osweiler (sprained right knee) sat out practice again Friday but is expected back next week. So is OLB DeMarcus Ware, who sprained a knee last weekend. ''We have some guys banged up. We would have had a hard time playing this week,'' DC Wade Phillips said. ... Kubiak on OLB Von Miller's first-team All-Pro selection: ''That's the highest honor you can get in this business.'' ... Chris Harris Jr., a second-teamer for the second year in a row, said he wishes there were three cornerback slots because teams play mostly nickel nowadays anyway: ''I'd be first-team All-Pro every year if they had a nickel cornerback.''

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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