The official return of pro football will have to wait another four days. The NFL canceled Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game because of poor field conditions. The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts are headed back home.
"I was notified at about 5:30 that there was a problem at midfield and in the end zones with some of the painting that it was kind of congealing and rubberized, which meant players might slip on it," Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker told NFL Media's Steve Wyche. "The folks with the field tried to remediate that by dropping some other pellets but after talking to the coaches and staff for both the Packers and the Colts, there was a concern they might be able to remediate it but they would have to do something underneath the surface.
"We think we could make it playable, that it might be playable now but if there is any concern, anything in the minds of players we want to err on the side of player safety. This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You've heard me many, many times talk about our values of commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and excellence. If we don't have that integrity to respect our players and respect their safety, then we shouldn't be doing this job. It was a difficult decision to make. ... But in some respects, it was an easy, ethical decision.
"When the field was put down -- this was a brand-new field that had only been used one year at the Superdome in New Orleans -- when it came here, it passed the safety tests. This morning when the cover was taken off, it passed the safety tests then. But I think the concerns were really about the painting and the rubberized surface."
Fans will be offered full refunds from the Hall of Fame, according to Baker.
The turf at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton will be replaced for next year's Hall of Fame Game, according to Wyche per a Hall source. All logos will be stitched into the surface so there will not be any issues like there were Sunday in which the field was deemed unfit for the Packers-Colts preseason opener.
The change in turf was already planned and was not a reaction to Sunday's game problems.
The NFL and NFLPA issued the following statement:
"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 cancelled. 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 embarrassing news casts a pall on an otherwise great weekend. Sunday's game wasn't going to be much of a regular season preview, although it provides a chance for end-of-the-roster plays to impress coaches and make the team. Undrafted free agent Joe Callahan was expected to start at quarterback for the Packers. Starters usually play a series or two at most in the first preseason game.
More than anything, this is a huge letdown for the crowd in Ohio. This weekend in Canton proved to be a pilgrimage for Packers fans and now it has been cut short.