Bruschi, Fairbanks & Gray are Hall finalists

The New England Patriots announced Monday that three players have been selected as finalists for this year’s induction into the team’s Hall of Fame -- linebacker Tedy Bruschi, head coach Chuck Fairbanks and offensive tackle Leon Gray.

Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a tradition of inducting one player or head coach to to the Hall of Fame each year. The process for induction now involves a panel of media, alumni and staff, who collectively nominate the players or head coaches most deserving of induction. After the nominations are made, the committee votes and the top three tallies become that year’s finalists. The Patriots then give their fans the opportunity to vote online to select each year’s winner (VOTE HERE).

The voting will end on May 15, and the inductee will be announced in early June. The official ceremony is held every September on the plaza outside the team's Hall of Fame.

Here is a bit more on each 2013 finalist (in alphabetical order), as put together by the Patriots:

Tedy Bruschi was called the “perfect player” by Patriots coach Bill Belichick at the press conference to announce Bruschi’s retirement just prior to the start of the 2009 season. As a seven-time team captain, Bruschi’s relentless work ethic and on-field intensity helped set the tone for the entire team. Bruschi was originally drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft. That year, the Patriots won the AFC Championship and appeared in Super Bowl XXXI. It was the first of five Super Bowl appearances by Bruschi during his 13-year NFL career. During those 13 seasons, Bruschi helped propel the Patriots to 11 winning records, nine playoff seasons, including eight as division championships, five conference crowns and three Super Bowl titles. In Bruschi’s 211 career games (including regular-season and playoffs), the Patriots had a 144-67 (.682) record, including a 16-6 (.727) playoff mark. Bruschi earned his first Pro Bowl honors following the 2004 season after co-captaining a Patriots defense that allowed just 16.25 points per game, the third fewest in franchise history. Bruschi is the only player in NFL history to return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns and his career total of four picks returned for scores ranks second in Patriots history. Bruschi is the only Patriots linebacker to return multiple interceptions for scores in a single season (2002 and 2003), which is tied for fourth in NFL history among linebackers. Beyond his impressive numbers, fans and peers alike revered him for his accomplishments off the field. After Bruschi suffered a stroke in February 2005, he dedicated himself to raising funds and awareness to fight stroke along with the American Stroke Association. He established “Tedy’s Team” to help raise funds and awareness to battle stroke, the number one cause of disability in the United States.

Chuck Fairbanks became the sixth head coach in team history when he joined the organization in the dual capacity of general manager and head coach on Jan. 26, 1973. His first NFL draft that year included Pro Football Hall of Fame guard John Hannah, Patriots Hall of Fame running back Sam Cunningham and wide receiver Darryl Stingley. Other Fairbanks picks included Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes (1976), Patriots Hall of Famers Steve Nelson (1974), Steve Grogan (1975) and Stanley Morgan (1977), as well as many other fan favorites and star players like Ray Hamilton (1973), Russ Francis (1975), Pete Brock (1976), Tim Fox (1976), Raymond Clayborn (1977) and Mosi Tatupu (1978) to name a few. In 1976, after three patient years of rebuilding, he helped the Patriots reach the playoffs with an 11-3 record. It was the most wins in franchise history and remained the highest winning percentage by a Patriots team until the 2003 season. The Patriots lost a close game on a controversial call to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders. Fairbanks led the Patriots to an AFC East title in 1978 with an 11-5 record and the team’s first home playoff game in franchise history, but the second-seeded Patriots lost to the Houston Oilers in an AFC Divisional playoff game. Fairbanks finished his career with the Patriots with a 46-39 regular season record and an 0-2 record in the postseason. He introduced the 3-4 defense to the NFL during his Patriots tenure, which remains an important part of his NFL legacy.

Leon Gray was a third-round draft pick in 1973 by the Miami Dolphins as a tackle out of Jackson State. He was cut by Miami before the start of the season and claimed off waivers by New England. By the 1976 season, he was viewed as one of the best left tackles in the game. He was a key reason that QB Steve Grogan was sacked for a team-low of just 14 sacks in 1977. Along with Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah, the two formed what was generally considered the best guard/tackle tandem in the NFL. At the end of the 1976 season, Gray was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, the first of two such honors as a Patriot and the first of four trips to the Pro Bowl during his NFL career. In 1976, Gray helped power a Patriots rushing game that averaged 210.6 yards per game (which remains a franchise record) and led the Patriots to their first 11-win season in franchise history. In 1978, Gray once again paved the way as the Patriots surpassed their season rushing record with 3,165 yards, an NFL record that still stands 35-years later. Gray was rewarded for his role by being named a First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly and the PFWA. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time. After six seasons with the Patriots, Gray finished his career with Houston (1979-81) and New Orleans (1982-83).