Throughout the settlement talks to the end the NFL lockout in time to save the preseason the NFL parroted the party line that the Hall of Fame Game was still scheduled to be played. Set for August 7 in Canton, OH, the preseason kickoff is supposed to feature the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears. Yesterday, the league changed its tune on the Hall of Fame Game, putting its likelihood of happening as scheduled at risk.
Exact words from Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead counsel and negotiator:
We'll see. It's getting tight [for the Hall of Fame Game]. It would be pretty challenging. That's one of the things we'll have to focus on.
Frustration was again the word yesterday as the NFLPA did not vote to approve the agreement and send it to the entire group of players for a vote. That could happen today, and many seem to think it will. Owners are voting on the deal at their meeting in Atlanta today.
Even is players do vote on the deal today, much work remains before business resumes in the NFL, including the business of preparing for the preseason. I think Pash's warning was more in response to the lack of a vote from players, but it applies to the entire process even with votes today from both sides.
Preseason football is worth about a billion dollars, according to NFL estimates. That money was a significant motivating factor behind owners' willingness to form a deal. Players, as you might have guessed, don't have much love for the preseason. Ticket revenue from the Hall of Fame Game is a mere $1.3 million, according to CNBC's Darren Rovell. Canton and its merchants would suffer the biggest hit if the Hall of Fame Game is nixed.
Whether or not the game happens on August 7 depends entirely on how events unfold today. Brace yourselves; it's going to be a barrage of bipolar news about a deal getting done.