Patriots legend Tippett finally gets spot in Hall of Fame

Associated Press | 8/6/2008, 5:46 a.m.

Both were strong, speedy and nonstop workers — Tippett in the AFC, Taylor in the NFC.

But Taylor was a more flamboyant personality who played in the New York media spotlight and was on two Super Bowl winners. The quieter Tippett, a black belt in karate, started playing for the Patriots when they were two decades away from dominating the NFL with three titles in four years.

“I think they were in the same class” as players, said quarterback Steve Grogan, Tippett’s teammate from 1982-90. “I don’t think he got the attention because he wasn’t media-friendly like Taylor was and we weren’t winning championships like Taylor was.

“So I don’t think people really gave him the attention he probably deserved, until now.”

Tippett, a star at Iowa, was drafted in the second round, 41st overall, in 1982 and played mostly on special teams as a rookie. Taylor was the second player drafted in 1981 and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Tippett started 12 games in 1983, then piled up 18.5 and 16.5 sacks the next two seasons, the two highest single-season totals in Patriots history.

He had 9.5 in 1986, Marv Levy’s first as coach of the Buffalo Bills, who played New England twice each season.

“I never remember him taking a play off,” Levy said. “Most of the great ones have a great motor and that is what I remember most about him.”

Grogan saw that in practice.

“Great size, speed and leverage, practiced hard,” he said. “The guy who always practiced the hardest was [Patriots offensive lineman] John Hannah and that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame, and Tippett would be a close second. He went full bore all the time.

“If you were game-planning against him, you’d have to know where he was, very similar to Lawrence Taylor,” Grogan added. “If you didn’t, he was going to make a play on you.”

Tippett relied more on power than finesse. Taylor was more athletic and would elude blockers as well as overpower them.

Don Blackmon saw that playing outside linebacker on the opposite side from Tippett.

“It may seem crazy to say this, but Tip was more of a brute,” said Blackmon. “He was not a thinking man’s linebacker. He would just want to crush you and run over you.

“He just played the game with so much intensity. I can remember times getting my own sack and he’d be so excited he’d slap me on the head three or four times.”

Tippett’s best team was the 1985 Patriots. They went to the Super Bowl, but were routed by the Chicago Bears 46-10. They had winning records the next three years before going 5-11 in 1989, starting the streak of five losing seasons.

“He put up some good numbers when he had people around him,” Grogan said. “That’s what great players do.”

Tippett made five straight Pro Bowls and led the AFC in sacks twice. He was chosen to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s.

Taylor made 10 Pro Bowls and was picked for the NFL’s 75th anniversary team in 1994.

“It’s a known fact that I’ve been referred to as the LT of the AFC,” Tippett said. “He opened a lot of doors for a lot of other guys to come into the league. Guys were measured up against him — we want to get us an LT, we want to get us an Andre Tippett.”

As of Saturday, the Hall of Fame has both.

(Associated Press)