Source: NFL lockout likely to cancel Bears-Rams Hall of Fame game
BY MIKE MULLIGAN firstname.lastname@example.org July 15, 2011 5:38PM
Bears' Brian Urlacher walks off the field following the Bears loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship Sunday evening in Chicago. | Michael R. Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 23, 2011 12:22AM
The Bears remain hopeful they will play plenty of football this season, just not as much as scheduled.
Despite optimism that the NFL lockout that has dragged on for four months might be over soon, the labor impasse claimed its first game. Two sources said Friday that the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio, between the Bears and St. Louis Rams has been cancelled. A source outside the Bears said the teams were informed by the league, and a team source said word was out among key figures in the organization.
Joe Horrigan, vice president of communications for the Hall of Fame, said he was informed by the NFL that “the lockout has not ended and no games have been cancelled.’’ But Horrigan said the Hall of Fame wouldn’t be informed until after the teams were because it merely serves as a venue for the game, which is run by the league. No official announcement has come from the NFL, which continues to work overtime with representatives of the players on getting a deal in place by Tuesday, when both sides meet with Judge Arthur Boylan, the court-appointed mediator.
The dream of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appearing in the NBC television booth to proclaim business as usual during the first scheduled preseason game is dead.
“The dream is over,’’ one source said. “They had to throw one away, and everybody knew it.’’
A new labor deal could be ratified at the NFL owners meeting July 21 in Atlanta. The Players Association, which decertified in March, would reform for a vote, and the deal could be completed. But with a couple days designated for signing draft picks and adding undrafted free agents — and a couple more days for standard free agency — it is unlikely teams would report to training camp before July 27 or 28, the source said.
‘‘The only way the game happens now is if the timeline is moved,’’ another source said, ‘‘if they get a deal done and move up the owners meeting and started the process immediately. I can’t imagine that is going to happen.’’
It looks unlikely after a report Friday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that said the NFL sent all 32 teams a memo saying it was working on an agreement and would debrief them Thursday in Atlanta.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz recently told the Associated Press that the Bears would need just one day to be ready for the exhibition opener. Martz, no doubt, would love to play the game since former Rams star Marshall Faulk will become the first member of the Martz-constructed ‘‘Greatest Show on Turf’’ to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Bears’ Richard Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX, is also among the inductees.
‘‘It’s disappointing for a lot of fans if they don’t play the game,’’ Dent said. ‘‘The game doesn’t have anything to do with me as a player going into the Hall of Fame, but it would be nice if they could play it because Chicago fans travel quite heavily with the team.’’
The Bears have about 50 players under contract and will have to fill massive holes. The agreement might allow teams to jump from 80 to 90 players in training camps.
The Rams have plenty of issues as well, including a new offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels, who has yet to work with second-year quarterback Sam Bradford.
‘‘It comes down to a player-safety issue,’’ one source said. ‘‘No monitored offseason programs. No minicamps. No quarterback schools or OTAs [organized team activities]. Even if 95 percent of the players have been working out and staying in shape, they still will suffer all those soft-tissue injuries, the pulls, the strains, the soreness..’’
The Bears still will play four other exhibition games, and the league is expected to come to an arrangement with NBC to make up for the lost game.