DeMarcus Ware, Andre Johnson and Devin Hester, all in their first year of eligibility, are finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2022.

The 15 modern-day players who will be considered on Jan. 18 by the selection committee include tackle Tony Boselli, in his sixth year as a finalist, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour, in his fourth year. Other finalists announced Thursday are safety Leroy Butler, wide receivers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne, linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas – all finalists for the third time; defensive linemen Jared Allen and Bryant Young, and cornerback Ronde Barber, two-time finalists; and tackle Willie Anderson and linebacker Patrick Willis, their first time in the finals.

A maximum of five modern-day players can be elected for enshrinement in August to the Canton, Ohio, hall. The inductees will be announced on Feb. 10 at NFL Honors, the prime-time TV program during which The Associated Press reveals its individual award winners for the 2021 season. Three others – Dick Vermeil in the coaching category, Art McNally as a contributor, and Cliff Branch as a senior player – also are candidates for the class of 2022. Voting on each of those three will be held individually.

ROONEY RULE: NFL executive Troy Vincent hopes hiring minority candidates becomes so common that the Rooney Rule is unnecessary.

“We should be creating a workplace culture that doesn’t require mandates to interview people of color and minorities,” Vincent told The Associated Press on Thursday. “They should be doing the right thing for the right reasons, not because there’s a policy.”

The NFL entered another hiring cycle this week when teams looking for a head coach were allowed to start interviewing candidates on Tuesday. The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions, head coach and all coordinator roles. At least one of those interviews must be held in-person for any head coach or general manager opening.


Since the Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003, 27 of 127 head coaching jobs have gone to minorities. This year, only one Black head coach was hired for seven openings, but 13 Black coordinators and three general managers got jobs.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns could be his last at Heinz Field.

“I don’t ever speak in definites or guarantees,” Roethlisberger said on Thursday. “That’s just not what I’ve ever done, or who I am. But looking at the bigger picture, I would say that all signs are pointing that this could be it.”

The 39-year-old insisted that he won’t make any final decisions until after the season, and Roethlisberger noted that his team remains in the playoff hunt. But for now, the veteran quarterback publicly acknowledged for the first time that he could play his final home game on Monday.

“I’ll address the definite answer at some point down the road,” Roethlisberger said. “My focus is on winning this game. If it is indeed my last regular-season game (at Heinz Field), it’s going to be one of the most important games of my career.”

Roethlisberger, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2004 draft, is the franchise leader in just about every major statistical passing category. He has led Pittsburgh to three Super Bowl appearances and two championships in a franchise-record 18 seasons with the organization. If this is it for Roethlisberger, he will retire in the top 10 in NFL history in three major statistical categories, fifth in yards passing (63,721), fifth in regular-season wins (163), and he’s eighth with 416 touchdown passes.


Roethlisberger is 91-31 during the regular season at Heinz Field, the third-most wins by a quarterback at a venue, trailing only Tom Brady and John Elway.

COVID-19: Less than three hours after Indianapolis team officials activated two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard and two other starters from the reserve/COVID-19 list, Leonard explained how difficult it was to miss Saturday’s game at Arizona — and how eager he is to face the Las Vegas Raiders this weekend.

“Actually, I tested negative that morning and then probably around 1 or 2 is when I tested positive,” he said while wearing a mask on a video call with reporters Thursday. “I got on a plane ride back home around 7 and now we’re here. I feel good.”

That’s good news for the Colts, who had six starters including Leonard out because of the virus last weekend and would have been severely short-handed Sunday if the NFL hadn’t reduced the isolation period from 10 days to five.

The Denver Broncos canceled practice Thursday as they retested five players whose results showed both positive and negative results. They held virtual meetings and planned to expand Friday’s practice to make up for the lost time on the field.

“The decision was made because we have some positives today. Some may be false positives. We’re working through that,” Coach Vic Fangio said. “We’ll come out with the list here later today (with who) might be on it.



• Browns center JC Tretter, the NFL Players Association president, was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list as Cleveland got a little healthier heading into its Monday night game at Pittsburgh. Browns rookie cornerback Greg Newsome, who had also been in concussion protocol, returned along with kicker Chase McLaughlin.

• Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth came off the reserve/COVID-19 list, becoming the final starter to leave a list that has had at least 35 Rams over the past month.

• The New York Jets got four starters back from the COVID-19 list as left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, defensive end John Franklin-Myers and safety Ashtyn Davis were all activated.

• The New York Giants had starting right tackle Nate Solder was taken off the list after a week. Backup tackle Korey Cunningham was added to the COVID-19 list along with receiver Darius Slayton and practice squad linebacker Omari Cobb.

• Cincinnati returned defensive tackle D.J. Reader and defensive end Wyatt Ray to the active roster from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Both players had been on list since Dec. 25.


• Seattle placed starting left guard Damien Lewis on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He’s the third player on the virus list for Seattle along with defensive end L.J. Collier and cornerback Bless Austin.

• The Titans got their third starting offensive lineman back from the reserve/COVID-19 list in as many days with right guard Nate Davis activated. Rookie defensive back Caleb Farley also was removed from that list, but he remains on injured reserve.

• Green Bay activated wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling off the reserve/COVID-19 list and signed wide receiver David Moore to the practice squad.

• Tampa Bay activated defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

• Houston placed wide receiver Danny Amendola on the reserve/COVID-19 list and placed defensive back A.J. Moore Jr. on the list.

• Carolina added safety Kenny Robinson, defensive end Darryl Johnson and practice squad running back Reggie Bonnafon to the COVID-19 list.

RAVENS: A day after returning to practice, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson was not present for the portion of Thursday’s session open to reporters, a possible setback in his recovery from an ankle injury. A gimpy Jackson was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, his first since being carted off the field in a Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

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