The NFL on Thursday canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Aug. 6 exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers is the first on-field event the league has canceled during the pandemic. It will be played on Aug. 5, 2021, with the same teams.
Cowboys training camp, which will take place in Frisco at The Star, will now likely be moved back a week and begin at the same time as the rest of the teams in the league. Teams participating in the Hall of Fame game typically start camp a week earlier.
Enshrinements for 20 men scheduled for this year now will occur on Aug. 7, 2021, with the 2021 inductees going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next day.
"This is the right decision for several reasons, first and foremost the health and welfare of our Gold Jackets, incoming centennial class of 2020 members, hall personnel and event volunteers," said David Baker, the hall's CEO. "We also must consider the most appropriate way to fulfill the first tenet of our mission: To honor the heroes of the game. This decision meets that duty."
NFL owners are conducting a virtual meeting Thursday in which the preseason schedule will be discussed. It's possible the league will reduce the number of exhibition games to two per team from the usual four. Dallas and Pittsburgh would have played five, including the game in Canton.
The NFL was able to conduct free agency, the draft and several owners meetings remotely, and it recently began reopening team facilities that were shut in late March, albeit on a limited basis. Only players who are rehabilitating injuries are allowed in team complexes.
Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL Films co-founder Steve Sabol, former New York Giants executive George Young, former coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, and former players Troy Polamalu, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James, Isaac Bruce and Steve Atwater were to be inducted into the hall this August.
The Hall of Fame, which opened in 1963, has never had two enshrinements in one weekend. It has had cancellations of the game, including in 2011 because of the league's lockout of the players, and in 2016, when the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was declared unplayable because of poor conditions.