The NFL took a black eye on Sunday as the first schedule preseason game of the year was cancelled. Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium is currently undergoing a two year renovation project, which is scheduled to be completed before the 2017 Hall of Fame Game. For the 2016 edition, which was to feature the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts, the stadium was using the former field from the Superdome in New Orleans for this year’s contest before being torn out for a permanent field to be installed for next year’s contest.
The “temporary” field became the issue on Sunday.
Normally, when “poor field conditions” are discussed, it deals with things like sod that is not setting into the ground, leading to divots being ripped out, or seams between the sod not growing in. For the Hall of Fame Game, the field conditions were more about the paint than anything else. The grounds crew at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which was formerly Fawcett Stadium until Benson, the New Orleans Saints owner, donated $10 million for the renovations, apparently used a paint on the field that was not compatible with the field turf making up the surface. It left parts of the midfield logo and the endzones hardened into a concrete-like surface, while other parts became a sticky area that could catch cleats if players were to run across it.
"When the field was put down -- this was a brand-new field that had only been used one year at the Superdome in New Orleans -- when it came here, it passed the safety tests,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker explained after the game’s cancellation, according to a report from NFL.com. “This morning when the cover was taken off, it passed the safety tests then. But I think the concerns were really about the painting and the rubberized surface."
Both the Packers and the Colts had executives examining the field shortly before the game once the issue was discovered. The game was officially cancelled about 15 minutes after the game was scheduled to start.
"I was notified at about 5:30 (central time) that there was a problem at midfield and in the end zones with some of the painting that it was kind of congealing and rubberized, which meant players might slip on it," Baker told NFL Media's Steve Wyche continued. "The folks with the field tried to remediate that by dropping some other pellets but after talking to the coaches and staff for both the Packers and the Colts, there was a concern they might be able to remediate it but they would have to do something underneath the surface.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is not owned or operated by the NFL, but the league supports the annual induction of former players, coaches and executives into the museum with the annual game, held the night after the inductions.
The NFL and NFL Players Association released a joint statement about the cancellation, explaining, “We are very disappointed for our fans, but player safety is our primary concern, and as a result, we could not play an NFL game on this field tonight."