GREEN BAY, Wis. – Four former Green Bay Packers starters are among the 122 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.
The headliner, of course, is former safety LeRoy Butler, a finalist the past two seasons. Also on the ballot is receiver Donald Driver, safety Nick Collins and kicker Ryan Longwell.
With a relatively weak list of first-time candidates, Butler is a favorite for induction this time. Hall of Fame voters have taken a renewed interest in the safety position. Before 2017, only seven pure safeties were enshrined in Canton. There have been eight over the past five classes: Kenny Easley (2017), Brian Dawkins (2018), Ed Reed (2019), Johnny Robinson (2019), Troy Polamalu (2020), Steve Atwater (2020), Cliff Harris (2020) and John Lynch (2021). Butler was arguably a better player than Atwater and Lynch.
With 38 career interceptions, Butler remains the lone offensive or defensive player of the all-1990s team not enshrined in Canton.
A seventh-round pick in 1999, Driver caught 743 passes for 10,137 yards and 61 touchdowns in 13 seasons. He was a three-time Pro Bowler who had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2004 through 2009. He is 43rd in NFL history in receptions and 47th in yards, and first in Packers history in receptions and yards and fifth in touchdowns.
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Collins, a second-round pick in 2005, was on a Hall of Fame trajectory until suffering a career-ending injury early in the 2011 seasons. He was voted to Pro Bowls in 2008 through 2010, when he had 17 interceptions.
Longwell scored 1,687 points from 1997 through 2011, with the first nine of those seasons in Green Bay. He is 20th in NFL in career scoring, passed last week by his successor in Green Bay, Mason Crosby.
Other players who were with the Packers briefly include center Jeff Saturday, receiver Andre Rison, tight end Wesley Walls, linebackers Hardy Nickerson and Seth Joyner, defensive back/kick returner Allen Rossum and punter Sean Landeta.
There are 10 first-year eligible players on the ballot: wide receivers Anquan Boldin, Devin Hester (also PR/KR), Andre Johnson and Steve Smith; offensive linemen Jake Long and Nick Mangold; linebacker DeMarcus Ware; defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Vince Wilfork; and defensive back Antonio Cromartie.
The list of will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and 15 finalists in January.