Fullback Larry Centers, guard Ruben Brown, linebacker Cornelius Bennett, linebacker London Fletcher, linebacker Takeo Spikes, and safety Troy Vincent are among this year’s nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023. The former Buffalo Bills are among the 129 nominees who will eventually be whittled to just a handful of enshrined members of the Hall. All six didn’t make the cut to semifinalist a year ago.
(If you really want to count him, receiver Anquan Boldin signed a contract with the Bills but only spent a couple weeks with the Bills in the offseason.)
Bennett is nearing the end of his eligibility and hasn’t advanced far enough in the voting to think he will get in this year. He had a great career, and the only folks ahead of him on the 1990s All-Decade team are all Hall of Famers. He earned one All-Pro and five Pro Bowl nods with the Bills. In 129 games, he had six interceptions, a whopping 22 forced fumbles, 19 fumble recoveries, 52.5 sacks, a pair of return touchdowns, and nearly 800 tackles.
Brown is the most decorated player on the list, making eight consecutive Pro Bowls from 1996 to 2003 during his nine seasons as a member of the Bills. He started 136 games for Buffalo in those nine years before finishing his career with four seasons (and one Pro Bowl) as a member of the Chicago Bears.
Centers had a long NFL career before his time in Buffalo. He already played 11 seasons before his two years in Western New York. Not a bruising fullback, Centers was known for his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He had 123 catches for 1008 yards and two touchdowns in his two seasons in Buffalo, adding 45 carries for 216 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He finished his career with nearly 9000 yards from scrimmage and 42 touchdowns.
Fletcher earned four Pro Bowl nods in his career, but none with the Bills. He spent five seasons in the middle of Buffalo’s defense, racking up sick tackle numbers in 80 games. He had 730 tackles, five forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, five interceptions, and two return touchdowns with the Bills. For his career, he topped 2000 tackles, ranking him second all-time to Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.
Spikes’s effectiveness was cut short by an Achilles injury, otherwise he was on pace for a certain HOF career. Two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro nod were finally giving him recognition before that injury. While he played for a long time after that, it was never to the same level. He spent four years with the Bills starting 46 games with 311 tackles, seven interceptions, seven forced fumbles, three recovered fumbles, seven sacks, and two touchdowns.
Vincent spent two years and one game in Buffalo from 2004 to the beginning of 2006 and was well past his prime. He started 24 games with five interceptions, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, one sack, and 94 tackles. He spent the more decorated parts of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
This is the first year without special teams standout Steve Tasker, who has entered the realm of senior nominees alongside other players from the Bills’ Super Bowl run.