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Parcells, Sapp, Carter among 7 Hall inductees

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Parcells, Sapp, Carter among 7 Hall inductees

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Bill Parcells was a winner everywhere he coached. Time and time again, he took over struggling franchises and showed them what it takes to be a success, including a pair of Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.

Parcells pulled off another victory Saturday - election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Getting in on his fourth try, Parcells led an induction class that also included mouthy defensive lineman Warren Sapp, prolific receiver Cris Carter and a pair of stalwarts from the trenches, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen.

The class of 2013 also included a pair of senior selections, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson. The announcement was made in New Orleans, site of Sunday's Super Bowl.

Almost as noteworthy were the finalists who didn't get in, including running back Jerome Bettis and owners Art Modell and Edward DeBartolo Jr. Players and coaches from the Baltimore Ravens, who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, spent all week lobbying for Modell, their former owner who died last year, to claim a place in the hall.

It didn't work out, no doubt pleasing fans in Cleveland who remain bitter about Modell moving the original Browns to Baltimore.

Parcells had to wait a while, earning a bust in Canton on his fourth try. He thought he might get in the previous year in tandem with one of his former players, Curtis Martin.

``It was a little less stressful than last year,'' Parcells said in a telephone interview from Florida. ``I was kind of hoping we could do it together, but as fate would have it, it didn't work out.''

Giants president and CEO John Mara said Parcells' selection for the hall was ``long overdue,'' but his candidacy stirred plenty of debate - a one-hour discussion among the selection committee members, by far the longest amount of time dedicated to any finalist.

``He's one of the best coaches in NFL history,'' Mara said. ``He turned our franchise around. We went through a long period in the 1960's and 70's when we were a laughingstock. When Bill took over in 1983, he survived a very difficult first year, but then turned us into a perennial playoff contender and won two Super Bowls for us. He coached three other teams and everywhere he went, he had great success.''

No one was more emotional than Carter, who took six years to get in despite putting up some of the best receiving numbers in NFL history. He broke down in tears but quickly pointed out ``it's not because I'm sad.''

``This is the happiest day of my life,'' he said. ``When people said, `Aw, you know, it really doesn't matter, you're a Hall of Famer in my eyes,' I said, `It's more important that I'm a Hall of Famer in the Hall's eyes.' And I really, really wanted this. ``

Sapp said his stomach was churning all day.

He doesn't have to fret anymore. Next stop, Canton.

``My feet haven't touched the ground in about 30 minutes,'' Sapp said. ``This is unbelievable.''

In addition to Bettis, four other players failed to get in on the final vote: Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams. Earlier in the day, the selection committee eliminated DeBartolo and Modell, as well as ex-players Tim Brown, Kevin Greene and Will Shields.

Parcells reversed the fortunes of four teams, also coaching the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, during 19 years as a head coach. He finished with a record of 172-130-1, most notably leading the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991. He led the Patriots to the Super Bowl after the 1996 season.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft saluted Parcells' election.

``It is well deserved,'' he said in a statement released by the team. ``As a Patriots fan, I will always appreciate the credibility he brought to our franchise as a two-time Super Bowl champion. We had never had a head coach with those credentials. I am very happy for Bill and look forward to his enshrinement ceremonies.''

Jets owner Woody Johnson echoed Kraft.

``Bill Parcells infused new life into this franchise on many levels,'' he said. ``From acquiring players like Curtis Martin to bringing back a winning culture, we will always be grateful to Bill for his contributions to the New York Jets.''

Sapp got in on his first year of eligibility after playing 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders. He amassed 96 1/2 career sacks despite playing on the interior of the defensive line, including double-digit sack totals in four seasons. He was the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year after helping Tampa Bay claim its first division title in 18 years.

Carter played 16 seasons, becoming only the second player in NFL history to reach 1,000 receptions in a career. He caught at least 70 passes in 10 seasons, and totaled 130 touchdown receptions from 13 passers.

Allen played 203 games over 14 seasons, spending the bulk of his career with the Cowboys. He played every position on the offensive line except center and was a first-team All-Pro seven straight seasons.

Ogden played a dozen seasons with the Ravens, a lineman who led the way for Jamal Lewis to become just the fifth running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Ogden was a six-time All-Pro and was voted to 11 Pro Bowls.

Like Sapp, Allen and Ogden were first-year selections.

Ogden shared the moment with his family. He called his mother ``first thing,'' and also told his 7-year-old son.

``He's real proud of his dad,'' Ogden said.

He watched nervously as the announcement was made on the Class of 2013.

``It's like going to the hospital with your wife to have a baby. You can't do anything about it,'' Ogden said. ``You hear everybody say you're a first ballot for sure, but you never really know. A lot of good well deserving guys didn't get in on the first ballot.''

``When I got drafted (by Dallas), they'd just won a Super Bowl,'' Allen said. ``When they threw me in, I just didn't want to be the one to mess it up.''

His philosophy never changed over his long career: make the guy across from him ``quit ... tap out.'' He joins three other players from that great Cowboys offense of the 1990s in the hall, following Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

``All those guys - Troy and Mike, Emmitt - they were kind of like big brothers,'' Allen said. ``I looked up to them. They came to work every day and showed me how to do it. They all wanted to be the best.''

Culp was a defensive stalwart for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1960s and `70s, and also played for the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions. He started at tackle in Kansas City's Super Bowl win over Vikings in 1970 and was selected to six Pro Bowls.

``Curley was a dominating force on the defensive line for the Super Bowl IV championship team and one of many great players that helped build the tradition and foundation of the Kansas City Chiefs,'' the team's chairman and CEO, Clark Hunt, said in a statement. ``We look forward to seeing him take his rightful place in Canton.''

Robinson played on the powerhouse Green Bay teams of the 1960s, starting at outside linebacker on coach Vince Lombardi's two Super Bowl champions. He closed his 12-year career with the Washington Redskins.

``He was such a vital part of those great defenses in the 1960s,'' said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. ``Dave's contributions to the Packers have not been limited to the field, as he has also been a great ambassador for the organization over the years. We are thrilled that he received this honor.''

Robinson was the 22nd member of the Packers to be election to the Hall of Fame.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/super-bowl-watch andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Flacco-Mornhinweg meeting helps Ravens unleash offense

Flacco-Mornhinweg meeting helps Ravens unleash offense

BALTIMORE – A few days after the Ravens’ quarterback and offensive coordinator had a meeting of the minds, the team responded with its best offensive performance of the season.

Joe Flacco felt the Ravens got too conservative against the Bengals in Week 12, and told Marty Mornhinweg. The Ravens’ offensive coordinator said he hated being called conservative, and responded with an aggressive game plan that had the Dolphins on their heels in a 38-6 blowout win by the Ravens.

When it was over, Flacco had completed a franchise-record 36 passes, including four touchdown passes.  Flacco (36 for 47, 381 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) was happy. All the Ravens were happy. And perhaps Flacco and Morninweg had finally unlocked the key to finding how their offense operates best.

“One thing Marty has never been accused of is being conservative – that’s not a label he takes too kindly to, as Joe can probably attest,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “They had a little back-and-forth in one of the quarterback meetings – that was fun to watch. I heard about it; I didn’t actually witness it. But that’s what I think. Iron sharpens iron. We challenge each other, and everybody is able to do it in a way that makes each other better.”

This has been a difficult season for the Ravens’ offense.  Even with the change from Marc Trestman to Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator following Week 5, the Ravens struggled to find offensive consistency.

But against the Dolphins, the Ravens were explosive. Asked about the meeting with Mornhinweg, Flacco downplayed it, but he loved the results.

“It was a good conversation,” Flacco said. “It was all fun. It was a pretty fun conversation. It came down to the fact that I don’t think we were able to finish Cincinnati off last week like I really would have wanted to.”

The Ravens definitely finished off the Dolphins. Maybe Flacco should call Mornhinweg conservative every week if the Ravens respond like this.

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Dennis Pitta relieved his production finally paid off with two touchdowns

Dennis Pitta relieved his production finally paid off with two touchdowns

Dennis Pitta insists Sunday’s game wasn’t some kind of breakout game for him, but the tight end scored his first two touchdowns of the 2016 season and further advanced the story of his impressive comeback from two major hip injuries.

Pitta had nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday in the Ravens’ 38-6 rout of the Dolphins, by far the Ravens most complete effort of the season.

Pitta had scored just one touchdown in the previous three seasons – all of which were either partially or completely lost to a twice-dislocated hip.

His return to the team this year was very much in doubt even into training camp, when the Ravens appeared deep at the position with Ben Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller.

But injuries or suspensions have sidelined all five of those players for extended periods, and Pitta – who played in just seven games over the previous three seasons – has emerged as the Ravens No. 1 tight end once again, just as he was during the Super Bowl run in 2012.

RELATED: FIVE OBSERVATIONS FROM RAVENS' BIG WIN OVER DOLPHINS

He leads the team with 61 receptions, which equals a career high he set in 2012.

“Yes, I had a couple touchdowns today, but I feel like I have been producing all season,” Pitta said. “I don’t think after a game like this I say, ‘Oh, I’m back.’ I feel like I have been back since Week 1.”

Until Sunday, though, he had not reached the end zone since Dec. 8, 2013.

“You always want to get into the end zone,” he said. “You go into every game thinking, ‘I want to be able to score a touchdown and help our team win.’ … The last couple weeks we have made our kicker look way too good (by) not getting red zone opportunities. Finally we got down there and we took advantage … and a couple of them came my way.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who set a franchise record with 36 completions and torched the Dolphins for 381 yards and four touchdowns, called Pitta “a special football player. Obviously, he’s been through a lot and he’s put a lot of work in.”

Flacco, one of Pitta’s closest friends on the team, said with a grin that he really doesn’t know what Pitta has been through in recovering from two major hip injuries, but he added, “I don’t care what he’s been through. I just want him on the field.”

RELATED: FLACCO-MORNHINWEG MEETING HELPS RAVENS UNLEASH OFFENSE