Hall of Fame Game still on track
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is still on track to hold the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7 between the Chicago Bears and the St. Louis Rams, the first game on the NFL's preseason calendar, according to hall president Steve Perry.
"We're making all plans to have the game on time. We've heard from both parties -- the owners and the players -- and they've expressed their desire to have the game. So, that's our plan," Perry told ESPN.
"Ticket sales are lagging behind where they were compared to this time last year," Perry acknowledged. "That's understandable. There is some uncertainty out there. But we're planning to have the game. Nobody has told us otherwise. In fact, both sides have told us they want to play the game."
Perry said tickets for about half of the 22,000-seat Fawcett Stadium have been sold. The game traditionally is a sellout, and is televised nationally by NBC.
If the game is not sold out, it would be blacked out in the Ohio area around Canton, he said.
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Perry said the Bears and Rams both have told the Hall of Fame they plan to play in the game, but to do so, both teams would have to begin training camp by the third week in July, which means the labor negotiators are cutting it extremely close.
Negotiators on both sides have said privately that a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement would have to be reached by July 15 for the Bears and Rams to go to camp on time. Negotiations resumed Tuesday in New York.
Bears safety Chris Harris said he wouldn't be in favor of playing the game if the Bears report later than July 22, when Chicago is scheduled to open training camp.
"No one wants to play four exhibition games, but that's what we do. I'm cool with playing (the Hall of Fame) game if we get training camp started on time," Harris told the Chicago Tribune. "But anything past (July 22) then I'm not cool with it.
"Even if we report three days later, then it's still past that date. The Bears organization, Lovie (Smith) and Jerry (Angelo) made the decision to have training camp when we're having it because of that preseason game on Aug. 7. So that's the amount of time it would take for us to get ready for the game. That's how I look at it."
Perry said the game could be postponed.
"That's not our desire," he said. "It would not have the same impact as having it on Hall of Fame weekend."
Perry said all other Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are scheduled to take place, regardless of the game.
Sal Paolantonio is a national correspondent for ESPN.
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