Two defensive stalwarts who fueled the championship run of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to discover whether their Hall of Fame aspirations are still alive.
With 16 Pro Bowls between them, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and safety John Lynch are hoping to advance to the final list of 15 modern-day candidates for the Class of 2013 when the group is announced today by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After a lengthy discussion about the merits of each of the final 15 nominees, the next class will be revealed Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl, in New Orleans.
A maximum of five modern-era nominees can be elected in any class, and Sapp and Lynch are both eligible for the first time.
Late defensive end Lee Roy Selmon is the only Buccaneer inducted into the Canton, Ohio, shrine to excellence.
Linebacker Derrick Brooks and former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy will be eligible for the 2014 class.
Sapp, now an analyst for NFL Network, made seven Pro Bowls with the Bucs. He played his final four seasons with the Raiders, finishing with 96.5 career sacks.
A first-round draft pick out of the University in Miami in 1995, Sapp was named the NFL's defensive player of the year in 1999 and is the only defensive player named to the NFL's all-decade teams of the 1990s and 2000s.
Lynch, who worked several Bucs games this season as an analyst for Fox, played 11 seasons for Tampa Bay after being selected in the third round of the 1993 draft.
A hard-hitting safety who registered 23 career interceptions and 973 tackles for Tampa Bay, Lynch made the Pro Bowl five times as a Buccaneer before earning a trip to Hawaii in each of his four seasons in Denver.
Other first-time eligibles hoping to survive the cutdown from 27 semifinalists are Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden and Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen. Also seeking to advance are former owners Ed DeBartolo, a Tampa resident, and Art Modell, along with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and long-time coach Bill Parcells.
Editor's note: Tribune NFL writer Ira Kaufman is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee.