A hearing in a Minnesota court room on Wednesday and the draft in three weeks are the only definite events scheduled in the NFL during April.
But at some point in during the month the league is expected to release the schedule for the 2011 season, including the preseason, and there is a buzz in NFL circles right now that the Chicago Bears will be one of the two teams to kick off the season in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game to be played Aug. 7 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.p
That, of course, is dependent on there being a resolution to the labor showdown that has taken the focus away from the gridiron. The inclusion of Richard Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX, in this year’s class of Hall inductees makes the Bears a possibility and the chatter is the team could very much be in the mix although nothing is official. Playing in the Hall of Fame Game would mean opening training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., a week early, possibly as early as July 23.
The Bears last played in the Hall of Fame Game in 2005 when they didn’t have a former player being inducted into the Hall. But offensive coordinator Ron Turner was in his first season on Lovie Smith’s staff and the idea was the extra week of training camp and the fifth preseason game would give the team more chance to prepare for the season.
This time around, an extra week of training camp and an additional preseason game could help make up for time lost in the offseason should the work stoppage drag on through the spring. That would be appealing to any coach in this environment even if the Bears, with a veteran team, would typically like to avoid the grind of an extra meaningless game. In this instance, the injury risk associated with an extra week of camp and another game would be worthwhile for coaches eager to get additional teaching time.
If any part of training camp is delayed because of a work stoppage, the Hall of Fame Game will likely be one of the first things to go. The enshrinement ceremony will be held on Aug. 6 but the traditional game will not be part of festivities this year. The Hall of Fame Game has been an annual event since 1962 and the Bears have participated in it four previous times, in 2005, 1990, 1977 and 1968.
The inclusion of the Bears, a team with a large fan base that is within driving distance of Canton, would likely help ticket sales for the game. Also in the enshrinement class are Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter.
Really hope this happens, be sweet to see some of the current players milling around at the hotels and events that week along with te alumni there for Dent's induction.. make the weekend that much better for those of us going