Tonight, the NFL will kick off its preseason with the Hall of Fame game between the Cardinals and Saints, in historic Canton, Ohio. The matchup itself isn’t anything to write home about, but for fans who have been suffering through their summer football drought, it will be a welcome return to the gridiron.
Saturday brought the newest class of Hall of Fame inductees into Canton, including Curtis Martin, Cortez Kennedy, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Willie Roaf and Jack Butler. Sunday will be the beginning of a much awaited season, a year after the Hall of Fame game was cancelled due to the NFL lockout.
After an off-season riddled with controversy and tragedy over player safety, suicides and bounties, the return to the field couldn’t come soon enough. Even New Orleans coach Sean Payton, who had been suspended from the league for a year following the bounty scandal, was allowed to attend the Hall of Fame festivities. There’s still another week of Olympic Games to go, but it won’t be long until America returns to its true pastime.
As for the actual game, both teams will be playing this one in true pre-season fashion, so don’t expect to see more than a couple series out of their respective starting line-ups. Arizona may take the opportunity to give starting quarterback Kevin Kolb a few more snaps than usual, as he hopes to prove he’s worth the $7 million bonus he received this off-season. Kolb managed to keep his job as the starter despite the Cardinal’s pursuit of Peyton Manning, and a training camp battle with fellow QB John Skelton.
The Saints have had their own battle with Drew Brees over the franchise tag they slapped on him. With his contract negotiations hanging up in the air, team chemistry is a big fear in New Orleans in the aftermath of the bounty scandal. Both teams will be nursing their injured players as well; New Orleans’ stand out sophomore Mark Ingram is expected to sit out as he recovers from turf-toe surgery, and Arizona will bench both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, the core of their young backfield.
Any football fan will tell you, the preseason isn’t a time for superstars, or even great football. In fact the most impressive players you see in the opener might not even make the team by the start of the season. But they’ll still be watching, because football is back.