Cancelling the Football Hall of Fame game August 7 was an embarrassment for the National Football League and the league probably should have been more involved in installing the field, which was to be used just one time, for this game, as the stadium in Canton undergoes renovation. Here are some reports from various news outlets following the cancellation:
NFL players have expressed concerns regarding the playing surface in Canton the past few years, and Baker said a new playing surface was installed prior to this year’s game.
Steve Wyche of NFL.com reported Monday that the field was brought to Canton from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where it was used for just one season.
“This is something that we have to get to the bottom of,” Baker said Sunday on the field to members of the media. “This is certainly something we are going to have to get right. We will bring in all the experts we need to get this right.
“I do know that the [NFL] Commissioner [Roger Goodell] and [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones left here, and I think everyone left here understanding the value of the hall of fame, understanding the value of this game to kick off the season.
“I’d like to think that this was a spectacular weekend — maybe the best hall of fame weekend ever — and that it was punctuated not by something that was just embarrassing and disappointing, but something that was punctuated by the very essence of showing what we stand for, and that is respect for the players and their safety.”
Baker acknowledged that he was “embarrassed and extremely disappointed” Sunday, and then said “we are going to get it right. I promise you.”
Baker was asked who was responsible for the painting of logos on the field.
“It’s the hall of fame contract with the folks who established the field, and then the NFL has to do the testing to make sure it’s appropriate,” he said. “In the end, we want to err on the side of personal safety so, like I said, hard decision financially, hard decision public relations-wise, but a easy decision ethically, I think.”
Baker estimated the cancellation of the game cost the hall of fame $4 million in revenue.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Canton Repository’s Joe Scalzo on Monday that “There has been absolutely no discussions about moving the Hall of Fame Game out of Canton in the future.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke with ESPN on Sunday and said having a game canceled because of poor field conditions on a synthetic turf on a nice night was unacceptable.
“This shouldn’t happen,” Irsay told ESPN. “It’s not difficult. Obviously, everyone out there says, ‘You’re a $12-billion league. How can you have a field not ready to go?’ Well, the hall of fame is sort of separate and gets run a little different from the league.
“We’ll have to get it right so it never happens again. … Yes, we’re upset. … We have to make it right to our fans and also get to the bottom of exactly who got this paint job done and why was there incompetence.”
The last NFL game to be canceled because of poor field conditions was a 2001 preseason contest between the host Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens at Veterans Stadium.
“It sucks, but the conditions of the field weren’t safe for any player on either roster,” Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told NFL.com writer Michael Silver on Sunday.
Silver, NFL.com writer Ian Rapoport and ESPN reporter Adam Schefter were the first to report Sunday that members of the Colts and Packers were concerned about the field.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association issued a joint statement Sunday that included a comment about being “disappointed for our fans, but player safety is our primary concern.” ESPN television analysts Chris Berman, Jon Gruden and Sean McDonough said they were surprised that raised paint would force a game to be canceled.
“There were a lot of young players that needed this opportunity,” Gruden said. “It might have been their only opportunity to showcase their stuff. These hall of famers deserve a lot better because there are eight great inductees, too.”
McDonough pointed out that Packers third-string quarterback Joe Callahan was set to start in place of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley, who were dealing with minor injuries.
“Joe Callahan was going to have this opportunity, and now he might [not] get it going forward,” McDonough said.
Benson Hall of Fame Stadium has new seating on the north and west sides of the venue, and new seating will be installed on the south and east sides. New artificial turf will be included next year as part of the Hall of Fame Village remodeling project that features eight phases, including a hotel, retail spaces and other amenities at a cost of $500 million.
Wyche reported Monday that all logos will be stitched into the surface so there will not be any issues, such as hard, slick and uneven portions on the field.
“I thought it was a joke at first, honestly,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck told ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “Sort of like a pull-your-leg preseason type of a joke. I understand that someone had to make a very tough decision, and I respect that. But I know I’m disappointed. I wanted to get back on the field.”
The NFL season didn’t kick off Sunday night after all.
Poor field conditions at Tom Benson Stadium prompted the cancellation of the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame Game. Thus the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers will only play four preseason games, like every other team.
“Due to safety concerns with the condition of the playing surface in Canton, tonight’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers has been cancelled,” read a joint statement from the NFL and players union. “We are very disappointed for our fans, but player safety is our primary concern, and as a result, we could not play an NFL game on this field tonight.”
Apparently, portions of the Hall of Fame logo in the middle of the field melted, causing concern that players’ cleats would stick.
“This is a very, very difficult decision for us today,” Hall of Fame president David Baker said on ESPN. “But we think it’s the only decision that can be made.”
After a long deliberation that included Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and Packers general manager Ted Thompson, everyone was asked to leave the field around 6:30 p.m. ET, roughly 90 minutes before kickoff. Fans were allowed to enter the stadium after a delay, but were not told about the cancellation of the game until Baker addressed them at 8 p.m, nearly 75 minutes after the players were told.
“As a result of some painting on the field today, some questions arose about player safety,” Baker told the fans. “We talked to both sets of players. I can tell you — I had a son who played in this league — if it had happened with him on the field, I would’ve wanted somebody to make the same decision.”
Baker said there will be a “full refund policy” announced on Monday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Even with the cancellation, the Colts cheerleaders performed, the Hall of Fame Class of 2016, including Packers legend Brett Favre and former Colts coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison, was introduced, and singer Lee Greenwood performed.
Both Colts and Packers players took the field in shorts around the the time the game would have kicked off as part of an ad hoc fan fest.
“A very, very difficult decision for us today,” Baker told ESPN. “I think this happened in Philadelphia one time, I think it happened one other time, they learned from it, we’ll learn from it. We’re going to make sure this never happens again.”
“A lot of fans came a long way,” he said. “But this is the only decision that could be made.”
“In some respects it’s a hard decision,” he added, “but it’s an easy ethical decision.”
The crews stopped working on the field around 7 p.m., just before ESPN announced on air that the game had been canceled.
The Colts will return to Anderson, Ind., for the final three days of training camp this week. The team will open the 2016 preseason next Saturday against the Buffalo Bills. The Packers are scheduled to host the Cleveland Browns on Friday.
The Hall of Fame Game was last cancelled in 2011, a victim of the collective bargaining negotiations during the lockout.
Keefer writes for The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK
CANTON, Ohio — Sunday’s NFL preseason-opening Hall of Fame game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts has been canceled due to concerns over the condition of the playing surface, the league announced.
Both teams complained about the artificial turf surface at the newly renovated Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which had hosted a Tim McGraw concert Friday in addition to the weekend’s induction ceremony.
Though the field was covered, the pressure of thousands of people standing on the surface did too much damage. After talking with each other at midfield, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Colts coach Chuck Pagano agreed to not play the game.
“If we don’t stand for integrity, how can we represent the game?” Hall of Fame president David Baker told ESPN. “This was a very difficult decision or us.”
The biggest area of concern was near the midfield Hall of Fame logo, which was recently painted and was still too slick for the coaches to trust players’ traction.
Before the official word was announced, stadium staff had been telling fans the game was canceled.
The stadium, which was built in 1938, has a new, temporary turf after Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham tore the ACL in his plant leg in last year’s Hall of Fame game.
The Hall replaced the turf with the synthetic surface formerly used at the Superdome in New Orleans. It will be replaced over the next year with a permanent surface as the stadium undergoes a major renovation.
The Colts and Packers were already wary of playing a fifth preseason game. The Packers were sitting both starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and backup Brett Hundley. The Colts were unlikely to send Andrew Luck out onto the field.
Stadium workers toiled through the night to dismantle the four stages set up on the field lift the protective surface on the turf. But the rubber pellets embedded in the field turf did not have enough time to recover were easily seen through the synthetic green grass. Because the pellets had not settled, the surface was “hard as concrete,” according to ESPN.com.
“It sucks but the conditions of the field weren’t safe for any player on either roster,” Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told Sports Illustrated.
Tickets for the game state “no refund,” but Baker said fans would be refunded their money.
Since the game was first played in 1962, it had been canceled just once — following the 2011 lockout. It was also ended early in 1980 and 2003 because of lightning. Both of those games also involved the Packers.
Omnisport’s Brandon Schlager contributed to this report.