In the event the labor battle wages on into the summer and the start of training camps are delayed, one of the first casualties will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The kickoff to the season has been a staple at the ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, since 1962 and it marks the first televised NFL event since the draft. But the Aug. 7 game will not be played unless the owners and players can hammer out an agreement well in advance of it.
It serves as a fifth preseason game for the two teams playing in the game, and they are allowed to open training camp a week earlier than the remainder of the league. NFL rules mandate teams cannot start camp more than 15 days before their first preseason game.
In the event most of the offseason programs are wiped out by the work stoppage and an agreement is reached sometime in June, that would give the teams playing in the Hall of Fame Game a competitive advantage. Time missed during the offseason could be made up with an extra week of training camp.
There is a buzz that the Chicago Bears could be selected to play in the game. Typically, at least one of the teams selected to play in the game has a tie-in with the induction ceremonies. Defensive end Richard Dent, the MVP of the Super Bowl XX Bears team, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame Aug. 6. The Bears have not played in the game since 2005. Selecting the Bears would help the Hall of Fame with ticket sales for Fawcett Stadium because the team has a large fan base within driving distance of Canton.
Other inductees this summer are Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter. The NFL is expected to release the 2011 schedule later this month. It's still too early to tell whether or not there will be a Hall of Fame Game though.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune
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