CNTON, Ohio (WOIO) - Another day, another kick in the gut. And that’s the only kick that’ll take place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
For the third time in ten years, the annual preseason game has been cancelled. In 2011, it was due to the NFL lockout. In 2016, poor field conditions. But in both of those years, the enshrinement ceremonies were still held.
Not this year. The Class of 2020 will now be inducted in the summer of 2021, and the Steelers and Cowboys will square off then as well.
Why make the call now, six weeks out?
“The health and welfare of so many people riding on the decision,” Pro Football Hall of Fame VP of Communications Rich Desrosiers told me during a zoom interview. “The Class of 2020 members themselves, the living Hall of Famers - the Gold Jackets - who come back to town every year.”
It's the first signature NFL event to be cancelled because of Covid-19. Even the Draft was held virtually.
"Our mission statement is to honor the heroes of the game," Desrosiers said. "We didn't feel like a virtual event was properly honoring the 12 living and 8 posthumous members of the Class of 2020."
Short term, this is a major blow to the Hall, not to mention Stark County businesses. Desrosiers estimates that the county will lose out on about $40 million from the cancellation of the events, and the state of Ohio, $65 million.
Long term, what’s next?
Well, the rest of the preseason, which will likely be delayed and shortened.
But what about the regular season? The Browns are set to open in Baltimore on September 13th. Could that be pushed back?
The only thing Kevin Stefanski knows, as he continues to prepare for his first season as an NFL head coach, is that change seems to be constant during this pandemic.
"I'm comfortable being uncomfortable," Stefanski said on Thursday during a zoom meeting with reporters. "So whatever comes our way, we'll be ready, and I think for us, I understand why that (possible schedule changes) may be a concern for some, but we're just gonna plan for what's in front of us, and right now that's July 24th for the rookies and Q's (quarterbacks), and July 28th for the veterans, and otherwise we'll be ready to pivot."
So plans, including for training camp, continue to move forward. Even if nobody knows what it's going to look like.
“I don’t know,” Stefanski said. “Again, we have a plan, and if that plan won’t do, another one must.”