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The Bruce Smith-Tony Boselli Debate: Both Players are Wrong (But Right for the Hall)

Smith clarifies original harsh criticism of Boselli's campaign to gain entry to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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Bruce Smith, the Bills' greatest pass rusher of all time and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was right to feel that former rival Tony Boselli was wrong to use their one head-to-head playoff battle to campaign for entry himself.

On the other hand, Smith was wrong to air the grievance because it just wasn't a good look for him. Made him look resentful.

"I'm quite flattered to be considered the gold standard by which another player's game can be measured to determine his qualification into the HOF," Smith wrote. "But on a more serious level, I and other HOFers believe it sets a horrible precedent to negatively zero in on a standing member of the Hall's play in order to validate the candidacy of a nominee."

Smith went on to suggest that Boselli's job as left tackle was made a little easier because he spent most of his career protecting lefthanded quarterback Mark Brunell.

"In Jacksonville, Leon Searcy bore the arduous task of protecting Mark Brunell's blind side, while Tony benefited from protecting the extremely talented, mobile left handed quarterback," Smith wrote.

Sensing he might have stepped over the line, Smith amended his original statement to say he has no problem with Boselli personally — only the people who thought pointing out the matchup in which Boselli manhandled  Smith (limited to three tackles, two pressures and no sacks) during the Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff win en route to the 1996-97 AFC Championship Game wasn't the way to go.

And it wasn't, although unlike Smith, who played 19 seasons in the NFL, Boselli doesn't have nearly the body of work because of a short career plagued by injuries. He played just 97 career games, including playoffs.

Smith, by contrast, played 299.

But make no mistake: When healthy, Boselli easily was one of the greatest tackles of all time. And he might have been the only one of his time who could stifle beasts like Smith without help.

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Boselli finally received enough votes for enshrinement this year, and Smith plans to be there to welcome him.

"Tony and I have no beef with each other,” Smith said, "and I hope and I’d like to see Tony enjoy this process. But I needed to address several of his campaign supporters because it set a bad precedent.”

Those sound more like the right words.

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Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to