Marcus Allen and Gary Zimmerman are the only first-time candidates among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced yesterday.

The Class of 2003 will be announced Jan. 25, the day before the Super Bowl. At least four and no more than seven new members will be inducted.

Other players nominated were quarterback Ken Stabler, wide receivers James Lofton and Art Monk, cornerback Lester Hayes, defensive ends Elvin Bethea and Claude Humphrey, linebackers Harry Carson and Randy Gradishar and offensive linemen Joe DeLamielleure and Bob Kuechenberg.

Former New York Giants general manager George Young and Buffalo Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson are also finalists.

Hank Stram, who coached the Kansas City Chiefs to the 1970 Super Bowl title, was nominated by the seniors committee.

Allen ran for 12,243 yards -- seventh on the career list -- and had more than 5,000 yards receiving playing for the Raiders and Chiefs. The Heisman Trophy winner was NFL rookie of the year and was the MVP of the 1984 Super Bowl.

Zimmerman played in seven Pro Bowls while starring for the Vikings and Broncos from 1986 to '97.

Bill Parcells was dropped from consideration for the hall after becoming the Dallas Cowboys' coach last week. Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, automatically had been a finalist because he was in the top seven in last year's voting but didn't get enough support to be elected.

But active players, coaches and administrators are ineligible.

Favre Says He'll Be Back

Brett Favre will return to the Green Bay Packers next season.

The 33-year-old star quarterback had fueled speculation about his future Saturday night when he did not speak to reporters, only the third time in his career he failed to do so after a game.

"As I said during the season, I have every intention to come back," he said.

"Right now I'm playing great," he added. "This team has a chance, and I'm having fun. So that's how I'm going to leave it."

The Packers lost to Atlanta, 27-7, in a first-round game at Lambeau Field. Favre fell to 35-1 in cold-weather games, and the Packers lost for the first time in 14 home playoff games.

"As I've done over my career, in time it will heal, and I'll come back, and we'll go on and start a new year," he said.

Favre has started an NFL-record 190 consecutive games at quarterback, including 17 in the playoffs. He has thrown for 3,000 or more yards for 11 straight seasons, a league best.

He was named a Pro Bowl starter this season and finished a close second to Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon in the MVP voting.

Peppers Honored

Not even a four-game suspension could stop Julius Peppers from being named the Associated Press NFL defensive rookie of the year.

The Carolina Panthers' defensive end, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, missed the last four games of the season for violating the league's drug policy. He took a dietary supplement that contained a banned substance.

Before that, he had 12 sacks, second among rookies to Colts end Dwight Freeney, who played the entire season to get 13.

Peppers, a former basketball player at North Carolina who gave up the sport to play football full time, received 25 votes from a nationwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL. Freeney was next with 14.

"I thought that my suspension would hurt my chances at winning this award because it seemed like everyone had forgotten me because I wasn't able to play in the last four games," Peppers said. "It feels good to win this award because it means that people noticed what I did this year."