Raiders kick off season on Sunday

Six will be honored - one will return - and a season will begin. It is going to be quite a weekend in Canton! The NFL preseason of 65 games kicks off at 8:00 PM ET Sunday night with the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in the birthplace of the NFL – Canton, Ohio – this year between the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.

The game will mark the "re-debut" of a longtime NFL partner. It will be televised by NBC-TV, which this year returns to broadcasting the NFL for the first time in eight years. NBC had carried NFL games for 28 seasons, from 1970-97. Announcing the game will be a well-known pair – Al Michaels and John Madden. They debut on NBC after teaming on Monday Night Football for four years from 2002-05.

It will be a big weekend for Madden and five other familiar NFL names. The former Oakland Raiders coach will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday along with Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Rayfield Wright.

Madden, of course, will go in as the former Raiders coach, but he has an on-field tie to the Eagles, too. As a 21-year-old tackle out of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 1958, Madden was a 21st-round draft selection by Philadelphia (No. 244 overall), although he never played in the NFL.

The game will mark another "re-debut." Art Shell is a member of the Hall of Fame class of 1989 who won a Super Bowl XI ring as a player under Madden and followed him as coach of the Raiders (1989-94). This year Shell returns at the helm of the club after a 12-year span. That same-team coaching respite ties for the fourth longest in NFL history.

It will be a special weekend for the Eagles, too, as one of their greatest players ever, defensive end-tackle White, is inducted into the Hall. The team retired his number (92) last season. The Hall of Fame class of 2006:

• TROY AIKMAN (1989-2000) led the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles. His 90 wins in the 1990s makes him the winningest NFL quarterback of any decade.

• HARRY CARSON (1976-88) was named to nine Pro Bowls, led the New York Giants in tackles in five seasons, and was a leader of the team's daunting defense in their Super Bowl XXI title season.

• JOHN MADDEN (1969-78) owns the best regular-season winning percentage of coaches with 100 wins (.759, 103-32-7). Oakland never had a losing record under him, and claimed seven division titles and the Super Bowl XI championship.

• WARREN MOON (1984-2000) ranks fourth all-time in the NFL in completions (3,988) and passing yards (49,325) and fifth in touchdown passes (291). Selected to nine Pro Bowls. Threw for 3,000 yards in each of nine seasons.

• REGGIE WHITE (1985-2000) retired as the NFL's all-time sack leader (198). Named to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls. Nicknamed the "Minister of Defense." Won a Super Bowl XXXI ring with Green Bay.

• RAYFIELD WRIGHT (1967-79) was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1970s. Played in six NFC Championship Games and five Super Bowls, winning two NFL titles. Chosen for Pro Bowl six years in a row.


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