Football is back ... sort of. After a week of training camp, the Cowboys and Cardinals will convene in Canton, Ohio, to take part in the annual Hall of Fame Game. But unlike the regular season -- or even the early stages of preseason, Week 3 games -- the Hall of Fame Game won't feature many big names.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has already announced that none of his starters will see the field, and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett left these players back in Dallas: Maliek Collins, Ryan Switzer, Justin Durant, Jourdan Lewis and David Irving. As for starters, Garrett wouldn't name names -- "I will not make that declaration right now,'' he said Tuesday about who might play -- but Arians made it clear that we won't see any of Arizona's stars, including Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu or Chandler Jones. Palmer's backup, Drew Stanton, isn't expected to play either, which means that Blaine Gabbert is likely to get the start.
Arians did say rookie first-rounder Haason Reddick will see the field but that the linebacker "[is] not going to play a ton."
Adjust your excitement levels accordingly. And if you're looking to wager on the game, be sure to check out our Mike Tierney's betting breakdown on the game.
So while this may not be playoff-caliber football, there are reasons to watch. For Arians, it's "all about young guys," many of whom he's "anxious to see them cover and block and return kicks."
Then there's Garrett, who reminded reporters that the last time the Cowboys appeared in Hall of Fame Game, back in 2013, it wasn't a meaningless 60 minutes of football for Jeff Heath, who parlayed a solid performance into a roster spot. Heath has appeared in 62 games during his first four NFL seasons and signed a four-year deal last year.
"One of my real memories of him is watching the tape the next day, the kickoff reel and he literally is 10 yards ahead of everybody on the kickoff," Garrett said of Heath's first Hall of Fame Game, via ESPN.com. "[Coaches] are looking at each other like, 'Who is that?' He really showed up in that game. He's a great example to the rest of our team. It really doesn't matter where you came from, when you were drafted, what school you went to. You're going to get an opportunity here, and if you take advantage of it, you're going to get more of them."
Heath added: "I was really lucky that we got that game my rookie year because the starters didn't play at all. I really wanted to make a good first impression in live action like that and I think I made the biggest impact on special teams in that game just because I was trying to show my speed and my instincts and being around the ball."
If you're looking for storylines for Thursday, here's a good one: Who's going to be the next Jeff Heath?
How to watch
- What: Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals
- When: Thursday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m. ET
- Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio
- TV: NFL Network, NBC
- Play-by-play: Al Michaels
- Color analyst: Cris Collinsworth
- Online: NFL Game Pass
Get your mind right
Here are how the Cardinals and Cowboys used their last practices to prepare for the Hall of Fame Game.
Last practice before GAMEDAY! pic.twitter.com/QffVCJtk8m— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 2, 2017
Before Jerry Jones became the Cowboys owner and general manager, he played football at the University of Arkansas. On Saturday, he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.