When active players talk about the Hall of Fame, it's typically in a deflective way.
It'd be nice but I'm not thinking about that. I'm just focused on the next game. The stats and accomplishments will take care of themselves.
But once a player retires, the Hall is either a distinct possibility or it's not. For those who think they have a realistic chance of getting in -- and players know -- it's not easy to revert to player-speak.
"It's hard not to think about it because people ask you about it and obviously when you come up for the first time," said Kurt Warner at the announcement of his inclusion in the Arizona Cardinals' Ring of Honor in September.
Warner, however, sees both sides to the argument on his possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's entering his first year of eligibility for the Hall in 2015 and the initial list of candidates will be revealed in September. In typical quarterback fashion, he's surveying the field.
"I'm so proud of what I accomplished in my career (but) you can look back and you can second guess a lot of things," Warner said. "What if I started before I was 28? What if I didn't have in between going from St. Louis to here.
"But to me, I've got a story that's unparalleled due to all those things."
That story -- the one where a grocery store clerk who couldn't catch on with an NFL team starts his career in the Arena Football League and then goes to NFL Europe before getting a chance on Sundays -- was tailor-made for Hollywood and made him an NFL sensation. It would've been a good enough story to recite at bedtime to a young, aspiring quarterback even if Warner hadn't gone to three Super Bowls and won two league MVPs. The fact that he was able to experience a level of success that many quarterbacks who were given a chance straight out of college never reached made it all the more remarkable.
But his road to the NFL also humbled him.
"I know the one argument [against] me getting into the Hall of Fame -- or a big argument -- will be, 'He didn't play enough, he didn't have enough years or he didn't have enough time,'" Warner said of his 12-year career in which he started 15 or 16 games only four times. "But I'd gladly trade all of that for how it played out. With two organizations to accomplish some of the things I did in a short period of time and then, more importantly, to have a story to inspire people. It's not just about me. There's something bigger here at work.
"I thought about it. I'm fully content either way. I'm fully content with my career and what I was able to accomplish."
That's not to be misinterpreted as indifference. The competitor in Warner wants to make the Hall.
"As any player you want to be one of the best of the best," Warner said. "When you grow up and you compete, that's always a goal. I want to be the best at what I do so it'd be a tremendous honor.
"But at the same time, my career will not be defined by that. I've accomplished so much and I can walk away and those things are just icing on the cake for everything that I've had an opportunity to do."