Richard Dent will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 6 regardless of whether the Hall of Fame exhibition game scheduled for the following day is cancelled because of the lockout.
Longtime Hall of Fame spokesperson Joe Horrigan believes confusion may be a reason why more tickets to the enshrinement ceremony are lagging. According to Horrigan, ticket sales for the practice game between the Rams and Bears on Aug. 7 have also been sluggish, which is likely the result of the ongoing lockout.
If owners and players can’t reach a deal in the next week the Hall of Fame Game will likely be the first exhibition game canceled because of the ongoing labor impasse.
“The only thing we can control is that we are prepared regardless of what the magical date might be,” Horrigan said when asked if the lockout had to end by a specific date for the Hall of Fame Game to be played. “We’d prefer not to speculate. The fact is, I’m sure there is a date in which it becomes impractical for the league and teams participating.”
The Bears are scheduled to open training camp July 23 at Olivet Nazarene University. Since it will take time for a new collective bargaining agreement to be ratified by players and owners, and teams must be allowed to sign drafted rookies and rookie-and-veteran free agents, the lockout will have to end soon for the Bears to start on time.
Olivet Nazarene spokesperson Gary Griffin said the university’s staff can be ready to host the Bears on 24 hours notice and will be prepared to handle crowds a few days after that.
“We exist to serve and educate our students and that job continues year-round no matter what happens in the NFL,” Griffin said. “If the NFL ends their [lockout] in the net three weeks, we put together a plan for training camp that we’ve had in effect for 10 years. Everybody knows their job and we get ready like we always do. If the NFL does not end the [lockout] we wait until we hear and get ready when we’re supposed to. We’re not living under any more strain or pressure than any other year. We’re flexible. When your business is to provide an education and living atmosphere for 2,600 college students, being flexible with a pro training camp is pretty easy to do.”
If the lockout continues past the first week of August, the Bears may decide to hold an abbreviated training camp at Halas Hall rather than hauling all their equipment to Bourbonnais for a training camp that might only last two weeks. Such a scenario would make it virtually impossible for fans to witness training camp, however, as there is little sideline space or parking at the team’s Lake Forest headquarters. Although new grass practice fields were installed this offseason, the wear and tear on the turf from training camp and regular season practices could also be problematic.