Yes, it is only a preseason game but the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game holds special significance, not the least reason being it officially ends a long spring and summer without the NFL.
But it also has a long and rich history. So when Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders take on Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2022 Hall of Fame contest at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 4, on NBC, it will be the yet another chapter in a story that dates back to 1962.
That year, the inaugural game between the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals was played on the exact same day the Hall of Fame broke ground on its new campus. The new edifice was finished the day before the second game took place a year later.
Over the years, 57 games have been played with only four cancellations: In 1966, because of the AFL/NFL merger; in 2011, due to an NFL lockout; in 2016, when the wrong paint on a new playing surface caused poor field conditions; and in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been some memorable contests, such as in 1999, when the Cleveland Browns defeated the Dallas Cowboys in overtime, the only HOF Game to go into sudden death. And there was the fake punt for a touchdown that the Tennessee Titans pulled off to beat the Buffalo Bills in 2009. And in the 2005 contest, rookie quarterback Kyle Orton led the Chicago Bears back from an 11-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Miami Dolphins.
Overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cowboys have the most appearances in Canton with seven, though the Washington Commanders/Redskins have the most wins with five against zero losses. Five teams — the Bills, Dolphins, Jags, San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans — remain winless in Hall of Fame play.
Of course, the whole point of Hall of Fame Weekend is to honor the new inductees, which this year are players Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, LeRoy Butler, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour and Bryant Young; coach Dick Vermeil and referee Art McNally. That ceremony airs Saturday, Aug. 6, on ESPN.