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Pro Football HOF cancels game, delays induction of ex-UM star Steve Hutchinson, others till 2021

Barry Wilner
Associated Press

The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the 2020 class is former Michigan offensive guard Steve Hutchinson, who went on to 12-year career in the NFL, spent mostly with the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings.

Steve Hutchinson.

The Aug. 6 exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers is the first on-field event the league has canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be played on Aug. 5, 2021, with the same teams.

Enshrinements for 10 men scheduled for Aug. 8 now will occur on Aug. 7, 2021, with the special centennial class that was set to be inducted in mid-September — which includes late former Lion Alex Karras — now entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next day.

“This is the right decision for several reasons, first and foremost the health and welfare of our Gold Jackets, incoming centennial class of 2020 members, hall personnel and event volunteers,” said David Baker, the Hall of Fame's CEO. “We also must consider the most appropriate way to fulfill the first tenet of our mission: To honor the heroes of the game. This decision meets that duty.”

NFL owners are conducting a virtual meeting Thursday in which the preseason schedule will be discussed. It’s possible the league will reduce the number of exhibition games to two per team from the usual four. Dallas and Pittsburgh would have played five, including the game in Canton.

The NFL was able to conduct free agency, the draft and several owners meetings remotely, and it recently began reopening team facilities that were shut in late March, albeit on a limited basis. Only players who are rehabilitating injuries are allowed in team complexes.

Along with Hutchinson, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL Films co-founder Steve Sabol, former New York Giants executive George Young, former coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, and former players Troy Polamalu, Edgerrin James, Isaac Bruce and Steve Atwater were to be inducted this Augusta.

"It is a special deal," Hutchinson said when he was elected.

The hall’s centennial celebration in September would have included the inductions of 10 men selected by a special panel in January. That class includes Karras, Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie and Ed Sprinkle.

The 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame class also will have its induction delayed until 2021. That class includes Michigan natives Derek Jeter and Ted Simmons.