The 2016 NFL season is off to a great start. The 2016 NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers Sunday was canceled due to unsafe field conditions at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The paint in the end zones and the HOF logo at midfield hardened, creating a slippery surface.
“Due to safety concerns with the condition of the playing surface in Canton, tonight’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers has been canceled,” said the NFL Players Association in a joint statement with the league. “We are very disappointed for our fans, but player safety is our primary concern, and as a result, we could not play an NFL game on this field tonight.”
The NFL Hall of Fame Game isn’t much to watch, anyways. It’s an extra preseason game for two teams a year on a field that has come under criticism in the past for not being up to par with league standards. Last season, Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham suffered a season-ending ACL tear during the Hall of Fame Game. Suisham pushed for better conditions this season, and he was one of the main reasons that the league was monitoring the field pregame.
This game is arguably the most high-profile exhibition match ever called off. In 2011, the Hall of Fame Game wasn’t played due to the lockout. Before that, a 2001 preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens was canceled due to the new artificial surface at Veterans Stadium.
The game is played on the same day as the Hall of Fame induction ceremony which, this season, included Colts head coach Tony Dungy and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, both of which were pivotal in the team’s Super Bowl XLI run with quarterback Peyton Manning. Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win the big game in the Colts’ 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Legendary Packers quarterback Brett Favre was also inducted.
That’s right, it’s been five years since Favre’s last retirement. Feel old yet?
One refreshing part is that the NFL is taking the blame for this one. Troy Vincent, the league’s chief executive for the game operations, sent out a memo to team owners on Monday.
“While the HOF field situation underscored the challenges in working with third parties, ultimately I am responsible for ensuring the field is of the highest standard,” Vincent wrote.
In the memo, Vincent indicated a key issue with the timeline that contributed to the situation: the decking that covered the field for the previous night’s enshrinement ceremony wasn’t fully removed until approximately 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday — work that was to be completed by 8 a.m. The delay threw off the timetable for preparing the field, which included the touch-up painting that left portions of field unsafe due to adhesion from the paint.
Other elements that Vincent outlined to teams:
— The independent field tester noted in his report that the “painting was fairly heavy with some crusting on the surface.” The tester maintained that the crusting would ultimately break up after players ran across those portions of the field.
— Attempts by the grounds crew to wash away crusted paint led to other issues, including uneven elevation after portions of the rubber infill were moved to other portions of the field.
Vincent promised that the league and NFL Players Association’s joint field safety committee will seek improved field testing methods. Additionally, he noted that the football operations department will engage field managers to fine-tune best practices for painting, decking and the impact of non-football events on the field.
“These will be particularly helpful as we evaluate stadiums for future international games,” Vincent noted which could be an interesting thing to finish with.