Former Bears Julius Peppers and Brandon Marshall are among the nine first-time nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Return star Devin Hester, a finalist the last two years, remains one of the most prominent candidates for induction.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 173 nominees Tuesday. The expansive list next will be whittled down to 25 in semifinalists November. Fifteen modern-era players will be presented to the selection committee during its annual meeting before the Super Bowl. Bears legend Steve McMichael, Randy Gradishar and Art Powell, the seniors finalists, will also be presented and are expected to gain admission.
Including the three seniors, the committee will pick between four and nine new members and present them at NFL Honors in Las Vegas.
Hester, the NFL’s all-time leading in return touchdowns, reached the final vote for the second-straight time last year.
The enigmatic and controversial Marshall spent three seasons with the Bears, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2013 and finishing with 3,524 receiving yards as a member of the team. His 118 catches for 1,508 yards in 2012 are both franchise records.
Peppers, a former No. 2 overall pick of the Panthers, was lured away to Chicago via free agency from 2010-13 before playing three years with the Packers and returning to Carolina for his final two seasons. He earned three Pro Bowl berths with the Bears, totaling 371⁄2 sacks.
Other players with Bears ties on the list include defensive end Jared Allen, cornerback Charles Tillman, nose tackle Ted Washington, running back Thomas Jones, receiver Muhsin Muhammad, center Olin Kreutz and guard Josh Sitton.