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Julius Peppers, Steve Smith Sr. on Hall of Fame semifinalist list


CHARLOTTE — A pair of Panthers legends made the cut and moved one step closer to enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former defensive end Julius Peppers and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. were among the 25 players announced as semifinalists on Tuesday morning. That group will be reduced to 15 finalists, which will be voted on in January, with a maximum of five modern-era players being selected this year.

Peppers advanced in his first year of eligibility, while Smith is a semifinalist for the third year and has yet to advance to the final 15.

Peppers has an excellent chance this year since he's one of the rare two-time All-Decade players.

Only 29 individuals (players and coaches) have ever earned that honor twice, and the only non-special teams players in that group who haven't made the Hall of Fame are Peppers, quarterback Tom Brady, and coach Bill Belichick (who are not yet eligible).

Peppers is also fourth on the all-time sack list with 159.5, trailing only Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Reggie White, and Kevin Greene.

Smith is one of six wide receivers to make the final 25, along with Anquan Boldin, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Hines Ward, and Reggie Wayne. Return man Devin Hester, a sometimes receiver, is also a semifinalist again.

Holt, Johnson, and Wayne have been stuck as finalists in recent years, with the logjam at the position making it difficult for any of them to pass.

Of those seven semifinalist receivers, Smith leads the group with 14,731 all-time receiving yards. He's eighth on the league's all-time list in that category, and of the seven players ahead of him, six are already in the Hall of Fame, and the other one (Larry Fitzgerald) is not eligible yet.

Smith is 12th on the league's all-time receptions list with 1,031. Boldin is ninth on that list (1,076), Wayne 10th (1,070), and Johnson 11th (1,062).


(15 advance to the finals, a maximum of five to be enshrined this year)

RB (4): Tiki Barber, Eddie George Fred Taylor, Ricky Watters
WR (6): Anquan Boldin, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne
TE (1): Antonio Gates
OL (2): Willie Anderson, Jahri Evans

DB (3): Eric Allen, Rodney Harrison, Darren Woodson
LB (3): London Fletcher, James Harrison, Patrick Willis
DL (5): Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis (also LB), Julius Peppers, Vince Wilfork

Devin Hester (also WR)

Hall of Famers Kevin Greene, Reggie White, Donnie Shell, Mike McCormack and Bill Polian all spent time in the Panthers organization in their careers.

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