NFL cancels Hall of Fame Game, postpones enshrinement ceremony amid pandemic

Indianapolis Colts
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INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL’s business-as-usual approach has hit its first major snag.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Enshrinement Week, on the calendar for Aug. 6-9 and the traditional start to the NFL’s season, has been rescheduled for 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker.

The Hall of Fame Game between Pittsburgh and Dallas had been on calendar for Aug. 6 followed by the Aug. 8 enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2020. The latter includes Indianapolis Colts standout running back Edgerrin James.

“The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans and volunteers who make Enshrinement Week so special remains our top priority,’’ Baker said. “We believe postponing Enshrinement Week events in 2020 is the right way to honor our enshrinees and their families properly, along with the other living Gold Jackets who want to come to Canton for this celebration.

“We also believe next year promises to be the greatest gathering in football ever.’’

The Steelers and Cowboys have agreed to participate in the 2021 Hall of Fame Game, which tentatively has been scheduled for Aug. 5. Two enshrinement ceremonies will follow for the Classes of 2020 and 2021.

For Colts fans, that portends to a spectacular weekend. While James is part of the Class of 2020, quarterback Peyton Manning will be among the first-time eligible candidates for the Class of 2021. Also, wideout Reggie Wayne should again be under consideration after being one of the final 15 modern-day finalists for the Class of 2020.

While the coronavirus has forced all sporting events to either be canceled or postponed over the last four months, the NFL has been able to adjust and hold most of its activities on a virtual format. That has included free agency, the draft and offseason workouts.

The NFL has taken the approach the upcoming season will go off as planned, including a four-game preseason and the 16-game regular season. However, it’s been speculated the preseason might be trimmed to two games.

The tentative plan is for training camps to open at team facilities July 22 with rookies and July 28 for veterans. However, Frank Reich has stressed the Colts are remaining flexible.

“Our plan is we’re going to start training camp on time,’’ he said earlier this month. “We’re going to play four preseason games and then we’re starting week 1 against Jacksonville, so be ready for that. Let’s not be caught by surprise by what is normal because right now, what is normal is everything that is not normal.

“The players need to trust us and I think they do trust us that whatever we have to do to adjust as leadership, we’ll do. We need to trust them that they will be ready mentally and physically. We trust them.’’

A bit of clarity might occur Thursday with a conference call involving league owners.

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