Jimbo Covert will finally get his debt.
Long considered to be one of the best of the best in the NFL because of a career shortened by injuries, the former Bears left tackle football immortality when he was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Covert, who retired in 1992 due to a back injury after eight seasons with the Bears from 1983-1990, was one of the 10 “seniors” – players whose careers ended more than 25 years ago – selected as part of the Centennial Slate in honor of the 100th season of the NFL.
Covert is the 29th Bears player included in the Hall of Fame and the fifth player of the 1985 1985 Super Bowl championship team, coached by Mike Ditka – after Walter Payton (1993), Mike Singletary (1998), Dan Hampton (2002) ) and Richard Dent (2011). The 15-person Centennial Slate class – 10 players, two coaches and three employees – is anchored in a special ceremony on September 17-18 in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Covert led the renowned Bears 1983 design class that produced seven starters in the 1985 Super Bowl championship team – sixth overall from Pitt. He was a week 1 starter as a rookie and quickly established himself as one of the best tackles in the game.
He missed only one game in his first four seasons and made the All-Pro team in 1985 and 1986. But after playing through a hyperextended left elbow in 1986, injuries began to take a toll. Covert was operated three times on his knees, twice on his shoulders, his elbow and twice on his back. Because of all that, he still played in 53-of-65 games in 1987-90 and was always there when it counted – Covert started in all 11 playoff games that the bears played from 1984-90.
But despite the injuries, Covert was almost always at an elite level. In what would be his last season after all those injuries, Covert started 15 games in 1990 and was never called to hold because the Bears finished second in the NFL in a hurry. In fact, the Bears ranked in the top three in rushing in every non-strike season Covert played. They not only led the competition in rush in 1983-86, but also became third (1988), second (1989) and second (1990) after Payton retired.
Covert’s excellence was recognized by coaches, teammates, personnel officers and opponents. He was chosen by the Hall of Fame committee as the “Team of the 80s” of the NFL. Bill Tobin, the then vice president of player staff, called Covert the best left tackle he had seen in 27 years of scouting when Covert retired in 1992. A toast from offensive line coach Dick Stanfel at Covert’s retirement press conference was typical:
“I have been coaching for 29 years and had been a player for eight years and if I ever had to choose an all-star team, my left-hand tackle would be Jim Covert,” said Stanfel.
Ditka said that day: “I don’t think the Bears ever let anyone play as well as the left.”
In 1991, Covert suffered a torn disc in his back early in the training camp and missed the entire season after a new operation. After an attempt at rehabilitation, doctors made it clear that his career was over. “I would never have passed a physical one,” Covert said. “I really had no choice.
When he officially retired on March 23, 1992, the Bears held a press conference in Soldier Field with a video tribute that fits a great player in Bears’ history. Finally Covert officially goes down as an all-time record in NFL history.