After the United States recorded the highest single-day spike in Coronavirus cases to date on Wednesday — 38,672 people were officially diagnosed — the NFL decided to make changes to its 2020 schedule. As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the league has canceled this year’s Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers and postponed the enshrinement ceremony for the 2020 Hall of Fame class.
The NFL’s decision marks the third time in the last 10 years that the traditional preseason opener has been called off. The game, which was scheduled to take place in Canton, Ohio on August 7 this year, also did not take place in 2011 because of a player lockout as well as in 2016 due to field conditions. For comparison, the exhibition contest that takes place on Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend was played every year between 1967 and 2010.
The two teams involved, the Cowboys and Steelers, will reportedly play next year’s Hall of Fame Game as compensation.
When it comes to this season, the game being canceled means that both Dallas and Pittsburgh will change their training camp report dates. They were originally expected to arrive at their respective facilities on July 22 — six days ahead of most other teams, including the New England Patriots — but will now adapt that date with their original preseason openers not taking place. The question is whether or not they will report on July 28 as well, or move the return to a different date.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are scheduled to play their first preseason contest 16 days after they are scheduled to report to camp: if the current plan holds, the team will host the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on August 13. However, a lot can happen until then. After joint practices with the Patriots and Lions already had to be removed from the two clubs’ training camp calendars due to Covid-19, the league might decide to call off the first two weeks of preseason action altogether.
Either way, today’s decisions show that the league’s schedule remains very much in flux with Covid-19 still not under control in some parts of the U.S.