Hall of Fame Game Not Likely

The Bears are scheduled to play the season's first preseason game on Aug. 7. Yet due to the ongoing work stoppage, it's unlikely the Hall of Fame Game will actually take place as scheduled.

It is widely believed that the NFL and NFLPA will have a new collective bargaining agreement ratified at the league meetings on July 21 in Atlanta. There is still plenty of work to be done, especially in regard to the proposed rookie salary structure, but those close to the situation feel the deal will be done by then.

If that were to happen, the following timeline for NFL football activities would take place (according to ESPN's Adam Schefter):

• July 21 - Educate the clubs on the new league rules and allow voluntary training for teams and agents.
• July 25 - Sign undrafted rookies, as well as give free agents a chance to re-sign with their teams.
• July 28 - League year starts and free agency begins.
• Aug. 2 - Rosters must be set at 90 players.
• Aug. 3 - Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
• Aug. 7 - A four-day match period for teams to match restricted free-agent offer sheets.
• Aug 12 - Deadline for rookies to sign contracts (not yet agreed upon).
• Aug. 16 - Signing period for restricted free agents ends, as does the signing period for franchise and transition tenders.
• Aug. 29 - Deadline for players to report to earned credit for an accrued season toward free agency.

The Hall of Fame Game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams is scheduled to take place on Aug. 7. According to the above timeline, that is four days after the start of veteran free agency. If the game is not canceled, the Bears will be expected to sign numerous veteran free agents, as well as hold preparatory practices, in just four days.

The odds of that happening are slim to none. Which is why those who have bought tickets to the annual event had better quickly investigate the refund process. It doesn't look like too many fans will be in that position, as ticket sales for the game are down considerably compared to previous seasons.

While this is a slight inconvenience to fans, for the team, this is welcome news. Most players already feel that four preseason games is two too many. The Hall of Fame game would have been the first of five for the Bears this preseason. Instead of risking injury by playing in an additional meaningless game, the team can, like the rest of the league, focus solely on building its roster and preparing for the remaining preseason and regular season.

If the July 21 scenario comes to fruition, Bears players will most likely report to training camp in Bourbonnais, not Halas Hall, a week later and will play the team's first preseason game on Aug. 13 against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com. To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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