If you were excited to watch the Hall of Fame Game -- and the NFL's return for 2016 -- we have some bad news for you. Because of poor field conditions at Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio, and the fear for players' safety, there will be no Colts-Packers game on Sunday night, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.
One exec w/team in Canton called cancellation "a no brainer for player safety ... The 90th man (on roster) deserves it as much as the 1st."— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 7, 2016
The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement on the decision: "Due to safety concerns with the condition of the playing surface in Canton, tonight's game ... has been cancelled. 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."
A year ago, the Steelers faced the Vikings in a mostly meaningless Hall of Fame Game. The lasting memory from that night was that Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham tore his ACL while trying to make a tackle on a field that had been previously criticized for its poor condition. Steelers running back DeAngelo Hall called out the league on Saturday night:
Hey @NFL it was that terrible last year but u didn't cancel the game we had our kicker tear his acl and a few mcl strains so thanks😏— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) August 8, 2016
Fast-forward 12 months and the 11-year-old FieldTurf at Benson Stadium has been replaced by the artificial surface taken from the SuperDome in New Orleans -- and yet concerns remain for player safety.
Only three hours before the Packers were scheduled to face the Colts, crews were trying to clear the field of the black rubber pellets that litter the turf as coaches for both teams looked on, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein.
More from Silverstein:
[Packers] general manager Ted Thompson was huddled with team physician Patrick McKenzie for a considerable amount of time just two hours before the start of the game as workers were still trying to clear the pellets off the field. The prospect of everything being cleared away in time for the start of the game was looking spotty and cancellation appears a possibility.
Based on his player safety concerns - Thompson won't let the Packers practice with another team during training camp because he's worried about injuries - it wouldn't be surprising if he told the NFL he was not willing to put his players at risk. Both teams could conceivably refuse to play if they thought the conditions were too poor.
And that appears to be exactly what happened with the scheduled kickoff for 8 p.m. ET.
ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that the conditions are "unsafe" and that "parts of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium ... are as hard as concrete in [the] opinion of multiple players."
A Colts source told ESPN.com, "The paint on the logo won't allow a cleat to penetrate it. A definite hazard to player safety."
The paint that was applied today on middle of field, and in endzones, has congealed; would be like playing on tar.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 7, 2016
Game now doubtful.
No word on when -- or if -- the game will be rescheduled. But both teams have been told to stay at the stadium because, according to ESPN's SportsCenter, "the plan is to have kind of a fan fest of sorts, have the players meet with the fans and sign some autographs."
David Baker, the executive director of the Hall of Fame, said that there will still be a ceremony for the eight Hall of Fame enshrinees, as well as a concert by Lee Greenwood. Not exactly football -- even if it's the preseason variety -- but it's something.
Baker spoke with NFL Network at 7:45 p.m. ET -- 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff -- to talk about what happened.
"We think we can make it playable -- it might even be playable now -- but if there's any concern, anything in the minds of players, and there was for the Packers and Colts, we want to err on the side of player safety," Baker said. "This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You've heard me many, many times talk about our values of commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and if we don't have that integrity to respect our players, and respect their safety, we shouldn't be doing this job."
The Hall of Fame doing their jobs also comes at a cost, to the tune of roughly $4 million in lost revenue.
HOF Pres David Baker said tonight's cancelled game will cost not-for-profit HOF about $4 million but called it "an easy, ethical decision."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 7, 2016
Baker added: "It was a difficult decision to make, but we will have a refund policy in the next several days that all of our fans here can turn to on our website. But in some respects, it was an easy, ethical decision. I had a son that played in the league for seven years himself (former Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker), and if he was on a field like this today I'd want someone to make the same decision."
But the question remains: How did it even get to this point?
"When the field was put down ... it passed the safety test," Baker explained. "Today, this morning, when the cover was taken off, it passed the safety test then [too]. The concerns were really about the painting [of the midfield logo] and the rubberized surface. We talked to the league, which has been great in this situation ... and we're confident -- I'm confident -- that [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] would be encouraging us to make the same decision today."
When Baker addressed the crowd about the change in plans, the reaction was ... predictable:
Crowd booing HOF president David Baker. Well done.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) August 8, 2016
But Colts owner Jim Irsay made it clear that having a game canceled because of poor field conditions is unacceptable:
"This shouldn't happen. It's not difficult," he told ESPN on Sunday evening, via PFT. "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."
Meanwhile -- and hardly surprising -- Twitter went right to work:
"GUYS! 2 WEEKS TIL THE HALL OF FAME GAME! LET'S GET THIS FIELD TOGETHER!"— Lamont Price (@LPizzle) August 7, 2016
Groundskeepers was like "yeah, we know" pic.twitter.com/JVNm3EC8pA
Hard to fathom that a league with what $15B in revenues couldn't have diagnosed this before now. Yikes— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 7, 2016
The Ted Wells report on the freakin' field turf in Canton, Ohio is going to be something else.— Brian Coyle (@BCoyle11) August 7, 2016
Hall of Fame Game: cheer up, it could be worse, you could be a Titans fan pic.twitter.com/ufa68N1KCn— Steve Sandmeyer (@SteveSandmeyer) August 7, 2016
Guess the NFL doesn't want to do the Hall of Fame Game, either https://t.co/dzeSpRcBW3— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 7, 2016
So the #Vikings will be the defending Hall of Fame Game champions for at least another year.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) August 7, 2016
And you know all the talk about doing away with the Pro Bowl? Well ...
My gut feeling is that the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game might have been the last one ever from Canton, OH and maybe last ever.— Matt Pomeroy (@MattPomPom) August 7, 2016
The Players also got in on the fun:
Had no idea a cancellation was possible.. When it 1st got mentioned our entire locker room had the same reaction.. pic.twitter.com/920e2bXBOR— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 7, 2016
It was an honor to get one helluva pre game warm up in Canton. #HallOfFameGame— Matt (@MattOverton_LS) August 7, 2016
Last, most certainly least: