CANTON, Ohio – Nobody was more disappointed over the cancellation of Sunday night’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game than Mark Murphy and Mike McCarthy.
However, the Packers’ President/CEO and Head Coach stood in agreement that the right call was made in the interest of player safety.
The NFL, in conjunction with the NFLPA and Hall of Fame, canceled the game between the Packers and Colts over unsafe field conditions due to the new paint job on the midfield logo and end zones.
The Packers, who were supposed to play in their fifth Hall of Fame Game, previously had games shortened in 1980 and 2003 due to lightning and heavy rain, but nothing quite like this.
“Obviously very disappointed,” said Murphy afterward. “This is relatively unprecedented. I’m not aware of a situation like this in league history. I’m most disappointed for our fans. They turned out in great numbers, they’ve been here all weekend. I saw some of the estimates, you probably did too, 80 to 90 percent of the people here were Packer fans. That said, though, I fully support the decision to cancel the game.
“I think the league and the Hall of Fame are right, player safety is paramount. Any issues with the field or any question that it’s a safety hazard, you can’t play the game. I think the right decision was made.”
Murphy said the renovations the Hall of Fame made to the field were all tested and approved beforehand. It just came down to the paint on the field creating a safety concern.
Murphy said he was made aware of the problem about two hours before game time.
“They had some really great events. I’m not taking anything away,” Murphy said of the fans. “Last night was spectacular from a Packer standpoint. Almost unparalleled in terms of impact for our organization. But there’s no question, this was very disappointing so you feel for them.
“You’ve got young players that want to make the team. This is a chance. Obviously in this game a lot of our younger players, first-year players were going to play, and they’re losing that opportunity.”
McCarthy knew how difficult a decision it was to forgo the game with so many Packers fans in attendance, but ultimately “the field wasn’t where it needed to be.”
He also commended Hall of Fame president and executive director David Baker, who agreed it was in the interest of all players involved to scratch the game.
“We did the right thing in line with player safety,” McCarthy said. “It’s disappointing for the team coming down here to play; very disappointing for our fans. It’s incredible to see the green and gold.
“I thought the ceremony last night was special. Our fans are unbelievable. I know they’ve done some renovations since then but I’ve never seen so many people at this event. It says a lot about our special fans.”
McCarthy said he’ll have to adjust the team’s practice regimen, but Tuesday night’s practice at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay will still be conducted as planned.
The Packers will then turn their attention to Friday’s preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns.
“You have to adjust. I think we all know that,” McCarthy said. “Really with the unusual flow of training camp, we still have installation practice No. 8 that we’ll hit Tuesday night and then we’ll shift gears into Cleveland. Then once we hit Cleveland, we’ll be more into an in-season schedule. It’ll be a minor adjustment, but we’ll just go with it.”
McCarthy and Murphy both walked away impressed with how many Packers fans descended on Canton, Ohio, for the weekend, which was highlighted by Brett Favre’s Hall of Fame induction.
It was a special night for the Packers’ staff members who made the 45-minute commute from the team hotel in Cleveland to Canton for the enshrinement ceremony.
For McCarthy, it was special to see Favre and former Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene get their deserved recognition.
“Last night was awesome,” McCarthy said. “I thought it was incredible. I really enjoyed everybody’s talk, especially I thought Kevin Greene was awesome and I thought Brett did a phenomenal job. I know the contingent, the Packer brigade that was on the bus that came down here – it was something that you’ll always remember.”