The NFL’s first scheduled pre-season contest, an August matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game, was canceled yesterday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first NFL event wiped out by the deadly virus outbreak had been scheduled for August 6, two days before Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies at Canton, Ohio, that were postponed until next August.
The Cowboys and Steelers, whose planned game in Canton sold out in 22 minutes, will face each other in next year’s Hall of Fame contest on August 5, 2021.
“The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans and volunteers who make enshrinement week so special remains our top priority,” said David Baker, president and chief executive of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“The Hall will honor the Centennial Class of 2020 next August, along with what promises to be an equally spectacular Class of 2021, as part of a multi-day celebration of football with an atmosphere that will deliver ‘Twice the Fun in ‘21.’”
There will be two different ceremonies next year, one for the Class of 2020 and another for the 2021 group.
The Hall of Fame Game also went unplayed during a 2011 money dispute between owners and players and in 2016 due to unsafe field conditions. “We believe postponing enshrinement week events in 2020 is the right way to honor our enshrinees and their families properly,” Baker said.
The Cowboys and Steelers were both scheduled to open pre-season training camps on July 22, six days earlier than other clubs, to allow extra time to prepare for the pre-season opener.
But with the game now wiped out, the teams might see their pre-season workouts pushed back to coincide with those of other teams, which owners might change as they ponder altering pre-season schedules due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The NFL plans to conduct a regular season as planned starting September 10 with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas city Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.
Former NFL coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, modern-era players Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce, Troy Polamalu, Steve Hutchinson and Edgerrin James and contributors, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue and George Young were to have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame this year.
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