Canton, OH (Sports Network) - Defensive end Bruce Smith, tight end Shannon Sharpe and defensive back Rod Woodson headline the list of players, coaches, and other contributors who are in their first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2009.
The total preliminary list includes 110 players, seven coaches and 16 contributors - nominees who made outstanding contributions to pro football in capacities other than playing or coaching. Contributors include former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and longtime team owners Jerry Jones, Art Modell and Ralph Wilson.
The list of 133 will be whittled to 25 semifinalists later in October, and then trimmed to 15 by a mail ballot. The Class of 2009 -- as few as four and as many as seven new members -- will be chosen at the selection committee's annual meeting on Saturday, January 31, 2009, in Tampa, Florida, the day before the Super Bowl.
Senior nominees Bob Hayes and Claude Humphrey are already ensured a spot in the Hall. The were selected in August by the Hall of Fame's Senior Selection Committee.