Fun without games at Hall

The drudgery of training camp and the ”honor” of opening the
preseason with an extra exhibition game isn’t bothering some
members of the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals.

They were happy to attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame
induction festivities on Saturday, which included Dallas running
back great Emmitt Smith and former Cincinnati head coach Dick
LeBeau, before facing off in the Hall of Fame game Sunday
night.

”I can’t wait to go see the Hall of Fame,” said Bengals
cornerback Pacman Jones, who spent part of the 2008 season – his
most recent in the NFL – with the Cowboys. ”I’ve never been there.
This will be a great experience for me. It will open my eyes up to
a lot of things. You go back and think of the history and all the
work that everybody else put in.”

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was equally pumped to do some
sightseeing.

”I’m going to enjoy going to Canton just to check it out,”
Romo said. ”Obviously the game is going to be super enjoyable to
get out there and play, but just going and looking at the history
of the game, checking it out and seeing the Hall of Fame. I love to
read about sport as much as I can. I could probably end up being
there all night, honestly, but I’m sure they’ll kick me out at some
point.”

It will be the Cowboys’ fourth Hall of Fame game and their first
since 1999. The Bengals will play in their third and first since
1989.

JERRY ON EMMITT: It didn’t take long for Cowboys owner Jerry
Jones to recognize how committed Emmitt Smith was to his craft.

Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson selected Smith 17th overall in the
1990 draft, one year after taking over the franchise and going
1-15. Smith would become the centerpiece of the running game, a
member of the ”Triplets” on offense, along with Troy Aikman and
Michael Irvin, and eventually the NFL’s career rushing leader.

”He is the most successful goal-oriented player or otherwise
that I’ve ever been around,” Jones said. ”When he came to the
Cowboys, he said, ‘I’m going to set the rushing record.’ And right
after he got to the Cowboys, he would come back and just sit in my
office because, apart from being a ballplayer, he said, ‘I’m going
to be a businessman and I just want to sit there and listen to you
during that time.’

”As far as somebody that can walk the walk, Emmitt does that.
That’s the way he approaches his business.”

BACK IN CANTON: The Pro Football Hall of Fame had plenty of
former teammates who attended Saturday’s ceremonies inducting Jerry
Rice, Emmitt Smith, John Randle, Floyd Little, Russ Grimm, Dick
LeBeau and Rickey Jackson.

Among them were Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, who formed the
”Triplets” on offense with Smith and won three Super Bowls for
Dallas. Smith asked both of them to rise while making his
acceptance speech.

Rice’s two favorite quarterbacks with the 49ers, Joe Montana and
Steve Young, were on hand, along with safety Ronnie Lott.

Jackson couldn’t have any of his Saints teammates who preceded
him into the Hall on hand – he is the first New Orleans player
elected. But Jackson did play in 1994 and ’95 with the 49ers,
making him a former teammate of Rice and Young.

LeBeau, who retired in 1972 from the Detroit Lions, saw his
current players – he’s the renowned defensive coordinator for the
Pittsburgh Steelers – in Fawcett Stadium. The team bused in from
training camp in Latrobe, Pa.

Among Grimm’s ex-teammates from the Redskins who are in the hall
and were here were Art Monk and Darrell Green. For Randle, it was
former Vikings guard Randall McDaniel and tackle Gary
Zimmerman.

For the first time since 1977, three players had team owners
present them for induction. The Cowboys’ Jerry Jones presented
Smith, the Saints’ Tom Benson did the honors for Jackson and the
49ers’ former owner, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., introduced Rice.

BERMAN’S PRIZE: ESPN’s Chris Berman, a frequent host of the
induction ceremonies, was given the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television
Award by the Hall of Fame for ”longtime exceptional contributions
to radio and television in professional football.”

Berman, who as a youngster used to watch Joe Namath play at Shea
Stadium for the Jets, has been with ESPN since 1979. He’s covered
28 Super Bowls.

”This is the pinnacle you can reach during a career,” Berman
said. ”After all, it’s fun and games were are covering, and it’s
fun and games to being covering them.

”To see my name with Curt Gowdy and Ray Scott, it’s
humbling.”

Peter Finney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was given the
Dick McCann Memorial Award by the Pro Football Writers Association
for his work through 65 years as a journalist in the gulf region. A
member of the Hall of Fame selection committee since 1992, Finney
has covered the Saints since their inception.

Ron Cortes of the Philadelphia Inquirer won the Dave Boss Award
of Excellence for his photo entitled ”Jackson’s Parade” showing
Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson sprinting down the sideline
being chased by a host of New York Giants.

BETTER THAN THE WHITE HOUSE: Dick LeBeau thought he’d
experienced his best moment in football a few years ago. He now
knows he was wrong.

The 73-year-old LeBeau, the oldest coordinator in the NFL, was
inducted into the Hall of Fame after a 32-year wait since he became
eligible.

He recalled the Steelers’ visit to the White House after winning
the 2009 Super Bowl, and President Barack Obama asking where he was
standing.

”The president signaling me out, this might be highest moment
of my life, there certainly can’t be anything great than this,”
LeBeau said he thought.

Yes, there can.

”In all due respect, Mr. President,” LeBeau added, ”this
business is a whole lot bigger.”