Pro Football HOF inductees must shorten speeches or risk Oscar-style musical cutoffs

·3-min read

Bill Cowher has spent more than 40 years in the NFL as a player, coach and TV analyst. But his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, along with those of the other 18 inductees, will have to be shorter this year.

Enshrinees attending the event will be asked to cut their acceptance speeches to six minutes. If they go long, they risk being drowned out by an “Academy Awards-style” musical cue at the eight-minute mark.

You know what we're talking about ...

The HOFers now know they're up against the clock.

Will they comply? Or will some try to power through the instrumental strains to thank that last grandmother, trainer, QB coach or college buddy? We shall see.

One of the most anticipated speeches will be from Class of 2021 inductee Peyton Manning, a master of the two-minute drill as a quarterback. Needless to say, he's honed his speech timing, knowing that the music cue will be bearing down on him on stage.

“I’m right there — 7 minutes and 50 seconds as we speak,” Manning said last week. “I will be on time and hopefully (will) be able to share how appreciative I am of the honor.”

This could cut down on some of Manning's famous one-liners, however. So Manning dished a few out before his speech started.

Why the need for such stringent timing? Well, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year's inductions, so we're enshrining two classes — 2020 and 2021 together — on the same weekend.

The crop of 2020 inductees, set to speak on Aug. 7, will include Troy Polamalu, Cliff Harris, Steve Atwater, Paul Tagliabue, Steve Hutchinson, Donnie Shell, Isaac Bruce, Jimbo Covert, Edgerrin James, Harold Carmichael, Jimmy Johnson and Cowher.

Sunday's speeches will come from the 2021 class of Drew Pearson, Tom Flores, Manning, John Lynch, Calvin Johnson, Alan Faneca and Charles Woodson. Special video tributes will be provided for posthumous inductees, which will be interspersed throughout the speeches.

With the time limits in place, no one will be touching the exploits of previous Hall of Famers Ed Reed, Brett Favre and Ray Lewis. Reed is believed to be the record holder at a whopping 38 minutes in 2019, breaking Favre's 36-minute speech and blowing past his former teammate Lewis' 33 in 2018.

Manning, who just agreed to do a lot more talking this coming season on ESPN's "alternate" telecast of 10 Monday night games (along with brother Eli Manning) this season, won't have to worry about being silenced long term.

The other new HOFers, however, won't have that same kind of forum going forward.

Of course, any of the enshrinees could pull a Terrell Owens and just give as long a speech as they want — at another venue. Owens, you might remember, opted to skip the traditional induction event in Canton, Ohio, hosting his own induction in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he rambled on for 39 minutes.

That's certainly one way to avoid having the music cut you off.

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