Posted: 9:25 a.m.
HONOLULU - Quiet and dignified, Art Monk heads the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2008 that is to be introduced Sunday here at halftime of the Pro Bowl.
Monk, who retired virtually into exile as the game's all-time receiver in 1995 with 940 catches, returns to an NFL hardly recognizable. The Bengals' T.J. Houshmandzadeh shared the NFL title with 112 catches this past season. Until Jerry Rice caught 100 balls in 1990, Monk was the only NFL player to ever catch 100 balls when he shattered the league record with his personal best of 106 for the 1984 Redskins.
And in an age when the Bengals' Chad Johnson and his legion of receivers are seen as the league's most flamboyant and publicized position, Monk stepped into Saturday's news conference after a career of not talking to the media.
"I've tried to express it before. I have nothing against the media at all," Monk said. "It's just my personality. I shy away from the attention. I preferred not to have it. I'd rather have someone else get the praise. I just like staying in the background, do my job, work hard and try to help us win."
"Chad is a great guy. I like him. How do I explain it?" Monk said. "Yes, he talks and, yes, he's kind of out there. But it's not really about him. he's having fun and that's really what the game is all about. Having fun. Encouraging each other."
Monk, a first-round pick out of Syracuse in 1980 (a year John Jefferson led the NFL in receiving yards with barely 80 catches), finished his career with one-year stints with the Jets and the Eagles but is best known for his first 14 seasons in Washington. During the '80s, the Redskins' group of receivers blazed the celebration trail with their end-zone antics.
"Yes. I like Chad. The motivation being what you do," Monk said. "If you're taunting and doing things for you, 'Look at me, this is me, I'm the best,' and it's all about you and it's not about your team, that's what I don't like. We had 'The Fun Bunch.' It wasn't to taunt anybody, it wasn't to promote anybody. It was a celebration of scoring and encouraging each other to score."
If Monk's size and strength (6-3, 210 pounds) heralded the rise of the big, physical wideout in the '80s, his personality stands in stark contrast to the current persona of the position.
And he understands.
"They're a lot more flamboyant. Not in a bad way. I don't think there's anything wrong with that," Monk said. "We celebrated and we did things but it wasn't really about us. It was for the team, just for the benefit of the team encouraging each other. Now it's totally opposite. It's self-promoting. But you look at it and back then the NFL was a running game. Running backs were in the key position. Now that the NFL is more of a passing game, the group of stars on the team is the receivers."
Monk, 50, who runs a Northern Virginia merchant services company, has never regretted his decision not to talk to the media. Even though it was a call that no doubt prevented him from getting elected to the Hall for a perplexing decade despite his long and distinguished career.
"That was just me," he said.
UNLIKELY DUO: Pro Bowls make strange bedfellows and Sunday is going to be no different.
Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, two of the central figures in one of the NFL's most heated rivalries, are now all-for-one for the AFC Sunday with head coach Norv Turner's plans to put them on the field at the same time.
Houshmandzadeh began his campaign early in the week to hook up with Roethlisberger. With Colts quarterback Peyton Manning lined up with his Reggie Wayne and Browns quarterback Derek Anderson teamed with his Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, Houshmandzadeh is ...
"Looking for touchdowns," Roethlisberger said. "It looks like we're going to be on the field at about the same time, so that would be great if we can do it."
Bengals president Mike Brown has called Houshmandzadeh "our 86," which is the number of Hines Ward, Roethlisberger's big target in Pittsburgh. The Steelers quarterback sees why.
"They're different guys," Roethlisberger said. "They're similar in the sense they're sure route-runners, great hands. Very physical. Go across the middle, they take hits."
Houshmandzadeh has also lobbied to get out of the slot Sunday and although Roethlisberger said Houshmandzadeh will be all over the field he also allowed, "But he is a great slot receiver."
Roethlisberger just shrugs at his reputation as one of Cincinnati's arch villains.
"That's what you get when you get AFC North teams," he said. "It's something that's always going to continue to grow. Especially with the wins and losses going back and forth. The two teams have been pretty good. It's going to continue to grow."