Two former Bears greats could reach the pinnacle of the sport Wednesday when they are considered for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tackle Jimbo Covert and defensive end Ed Sprinkle are among 20 senior candidates vying for 10 coveted spots in the Hall of Fame as part of a special 20-member centennial Class of 2020 commemorating the NFL's 100th season.
The senior nominees—all individuals who last played more than 25 years ago—were selected by a Blue Ribbon Panel from among nearly 300 candidates.
A special 25-member committee comprised of Hall of Famers, coaches, football executives, historians and current members of the selection committee will vote on the senior candidates Wednesday in Canton, Ohio.
UPDATE: The 10 senior candidates voted into the Hall of Fame will be announced live on "Good Morning Football" next Wednesday, Jan. 15 beginning at 6 a.m. (CT) on NFL Network.
The modern-era group will be determined by the 48 selection committee voters, as usual, on the day before the Super Bowl in south Florida.
Hall of Fame writer Dan Pompei, the Chicago representative on the selection committee, will present the cases for Covert and Sprinkle to the voters.
Covert played his entire NFL career with the Bears from 1983-90 after being selected with the sixth pick in the first round of the 1983 draft out of Pittsburgh, where he blocked for star quarterback Dan Marino.
Covert was a two-time first-team All-Pro who helped the Bears win six division championships, one conference title and one Super Bowl during his nine seasons. He was part of an offensive line that helped the Bears lead the NFL in rushing for four consecutive seasons from 1983-86.
"I think back to the great Bears teams from the 1980s, and they didn't have a player that was more dominant than Jimbo Covert," Pompei told ChicagoBears.com. "I think he's kind of gotten lost in the cracks. But he was a player who could take away a Hall of Fame pass rusher, which he did repeatedly, with Lawrence Taylor and many others."
Of the 22 players selected first-team All-Decade for the 1980s, Covert is the only one who is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
"His credentials speak for themselves," Pompei said. "I think the one thing that he lacks are a lot of Pro Bowl appearances. He only played in two Pro Bowls. But I think we all know the Pro Bowl is an imperfect measure of achievement and also of skill. He was a first-team all-decade player. I think it's time that he gets recognized for everything that he was to the Bears on those teams."
One factor working against Covert is that he played only eight seasons in a career shortened by injury. But Pompei doesn't think that should keep the former tackle out of the Hall.
"He played longer than a number of people who are in the Hall of Fame," Pompei said. "He played more games than Tony Boselli, who has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame for a number of years and is kind of knocking at the door. Is that a factor in maybe why [Covert] hasn't been in up to this point? Perhaps. But I think he played long enough to the point where that really should not be an issue."
Sprinkle, meanwhile, was a fierce competitor who was once described by George Halas as "the greatest pass rusher I've ever seen."
Sprinkle played his entire 12-year NFL career with the Bears from 1944-55, helping the Monsters of the Midway win the league championship in 1946. He was voted to four Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1940s.
"His ability to dominate a football game as a pass rusher was really unique in his era," Pompei said. "He was an undersized guy; 200 pounds soaking wet. He created mayhem in virtually every game he played in, and it wasn't just as a pass rusher. He was a playmaker. He was a tone-setter. I think if you talk to anyone from that era who played against him, they will say he was one of the most difficult players they ever really encountered to try to block."
Sprinkle, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 90, was labeled "the meanest man in football" in a 1950 article in Collier's Weekly magazine. But the Bears defensive end always stressed that he played within the rules.
"I think the thing that probably has kept him out of the Hall of Fame is that he was known as a dirty football player," Pompei said. "He was a take-no-prisoners guy. But I think really when you look back at what he did, he was really the first great Bears defensive player in a string. I think he was as responsible as anybody for changing the identity of the Bears from a team that was dominated by offense and offensive stars for their first several decades to a team that is known for defense and great defensive players."
In addition to the 10 senior candidates, the Hall of Fame's Class of 2020 will include five modern-era candidates, three contributors and two coaches.
The entire 20-person Class of 2020 will be in Canton for the 2020 Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls. The group of Modern-Era players along with contributors and coaches will be enshrined on Saturday, Aug. 8. The 10 seniors will take center stage in the once-in-every-other-lifetime Centennial Celebration on Sept. 16-19, 2020 when they are inducted.