Sobering Announcement Made on Cowboys’ Preseason Opener

Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones

Getty Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones

If — and it’s a big if — the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers meet in the Hall of Fame Game, it’s increasingly likely to be played in an empty stadium, sans fans, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine bluntly stated earlier this week.

“As much as I hate to say this, because we’ve all been looking forward to that and I know how much it means to the Canton area and the Stark County area and really across the country, it’s a great great event that we’ve been looking forward to, [but ] having a crowd that size is highly unlikely. It could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today,” DeWine said Tuesday, via WKYC.

“Again, we have to see where we are at that point, but that’s a large crowd, a lot of people together,” he said. “These are the things that we’ve talked about all the way through this as we open Ohio up and we get back to work and we get back to doing the things that we like, probably the last things that are going to be able to be open are the big crowds, particularly when you have big crowds that are close together. So we have to continue to look at it and make decisions as we move forward, but if the question was, ‘could that even occur today?’ the answer would be, ‘no.'”

The Hall of Fame Game is the NFL’s annual preseason opener held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. This year’s edition between the Cowboys and Steelers is slated to kick off Thursday, Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. ET, preceding the HOF induction ceremony on Aug. 8.

The stadium has the capacity to hold roughly 23,000 fans, much less than a traditional venue but potentially too many for the league to allow with coronavirus cases on the rise.

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Game’s (Tentatively) On

CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported that the game and induction “is still a go,” as of this writing, though the NFL allegedly is working on contingency plans that includes pushing the events to sometime later in August or even waiting until 2021 when this year’s enshrinees would combine with next year’s class.

“One of the things we’re hoping for and that we’re willing to do is to almost be the test case for the NFL,” Rich Desrosiers, VP of communications for the Hall, told Jones. “Give us the green light and we’ll show folks how it can be done safely for fans, safely for participants and safely for the employees here. We feel very positive about the prospects of this happening in early August.”

Coronavirus Invades The NFL

This news comes as several NFL players, including Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, recently tested positive for COVID-19 — a sobering reminder of the new normal in and around the sport.

A reality the league has resigned itself to.

“So positive tests are going to happen,” commissioner Roger Goodell said during a radio interview Monday, via ESPN. “The issue is, can we obviously prevent as many of those from happening, but in addition, treat them quickly, isolate them and prevent them from directly impacting our player personnel.

“So none of those players were in the facilities,” he added. “All of those players, fortunately, have had either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.”

READ NEXT: Cowboys Take Hard Stance Against Potential Dak Prescott Holdout: Report

Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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