Congealed field in Canton takes auditions from Colts, Pack
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will issue refunds to ticket buyers who went home from the NFL's annual preseason kickoff without having watched any football.
The competitors for roster spots with the Colts and the Packers won't get the game back, though.
''I can tell you this: Every one of those young players are upset,'' Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan said.
After Brett Favre stole the show with a humorous, insightful and moving speech during the induction ceremony for his class on Saturday, the talk of league turned the next night to the field. That's because part of it was congealed, rendering the Indianapolis-Green Bay game unplayable.
The traditional exhibition in Canton, Ohio, an extra preseason contest for each team and source of local pride, was canceled when NFL and team officials deemed the turf unsafe due to hardened paint and loosened rubber pellets.
Neither the Colts nor the Packers were available for comment on Monday, but both coaches expressed disappointment on Sunday night about the lost opportunity to evaluate, even though four more games remain before the regular season.
These exhibitions often become yawners for fans, with most starters standing on the sideline, but they're serious business for the undrafted and unproven guys trying to make an impression.
''Nothing is guaranteed in this league. Those types of games, you don't want to miss reps, especially in game-type situations,'' New York Giants safety Cooper Taylor, himself a roster-bubble player.
''You don't go live in practice any more. You just can't do that with the way the NFL has been set up.''
He was referring to the attempt to protect the health of the players in a dangerous sport, which is exactly why the game was called off.
As frustrated as the second, third and fourth-stringers must have been by the cancellation, nobody would have wanted to put bones, joints or muscles at greater risk.
''If something happens to somebody, then it's like `Oh, they shouldn't have played the game,''' Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said.
Something did happen on that same field last year, to Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham. He tore the ACL in his left knee in the Hall of Fame game against the Minnesota Vikings, and his career could be over.
The NFL Players Association has made field conditions a priority of its members.
''There is a standard,'' said Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, the team's union rep. ''People haven't held everything to that standard. So I think that is what the focus is, and the NFL is saying we are committed to this, too, the safety of our players. I think that is why it happened.''
Baltimore and Philadelphia had a preseason game called off in 2001 when a new artificial turf at Veterans Stadium, the former home of the Eagles, was deemed unsafe for playing on. Ryan was the defensive line coach for the Ravens that year, so the news on Sunday night resonated with him.
''I get it. Everybody involved in the NFL wants to have that game played,'' Ryan said. ''I know everybody was excited about it, and you get a chance to see two teams play when nobody else is playing.
''Certainly, as a fan, everybody was excited about it. But the NFL, to their credit, did the right thing. If the field's not suitable to play, then you don't play.''
The Hall of Fame announced Monday the refund procedure for fans who had tickets, though no extras were offered for the inconvenience. The league offered little insight beyond what was announced about the conditions the night before.
''We are working with the Hall and the field supplier to determine what caused this issue,'' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
This is a detail-oriented league that, for example, fines players for uniform violations. So the condition of the playing surface is a serious matter.
The NFL now has a separate website solely for information about its football operations , which includes a detailed page describing procedures and standards for preparing and certifying playing fields around the league.
Surfaces are tested for hardness up to 72 hours before each game. The depth and evenness of the infill is measured. Even the color of the tarp is prescribed.
''Few things play a more important role in the quality, integrity and safety of an NFL game than the playing field,'' the league's mission statement reads. ''All playing surfaces must be in the best possible condition to showcase the players' skills and talents.''
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in Canton, Ohio, and AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Charles Odum in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Andrew Seligman in Bourbounnais, Illinois, John Wawrow in Pittsford, New York, and Dennis Waszak in Florham Park, New Jersey, contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL