It will be a celebration of both the past and present. That’s the agenda this weekend in Canton, Ohio, birthplace of the NFL.
First, the past is saluted with the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday at 7:00 PM ET (NFL Network and ESPN). History will be at the forefront as the Hall of Fame class of 2014 is inducted, sporting their new gold Hall jackets in front of returning Hall of Famers and thousands of fans.
“This is a wonderfully spectacular tradition, one of the greatest in all of sports,” says Hall of Fame president DAVID BAKER. “Nowhere can fans see so many of the greatest heroes of the game in one place at one time. There’s no better way to kick off the NFL’s 95th season.”
The Hall of Fame class of 2014:
Then on Sunday night, it’s back to football with the first game of the year – the annual NFL/Hall of Fame Game at 8:00 PM ET at Fawcett Stadium on NBC – when the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills meet.
The game will debut innovations that fans will see during the 2014 NFL season. Among them are:
INSTANT REPLAY: The referee will now be able to consult with Vice President of Officiating DEAN BLANDINOduring replay reviews. In addition, the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play will now be reviewable. This includes fumbles, backward passes and kicks.
OFFICIAL-TO-OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION: All seven game officials will now be able to communicate with each other during NFL games via wireless microphones.
GOAL POSTS: The uprights will now extend to 35 feet above the crossbar, up from 30 feet in previous seasons, to help officials make definitive rulings on field-goal attempts that previously crossed above the top of the uprights.
TABLETS: Teams will be able to deliver pre- and post-snap photos to coaches and players on the sidelines and in the coaching booth via tablets.
Additionally, for the NFL/Hall of Fame Game and the first two weeks of the preseason, the NFL will experiment with extra point attempts by spotting the ball at the 15-yard line for extra point kick attempts. This will be done to gather information regarding possible future changes to make these plays more competitive and exciting for fans. The two-point try will remain at the two-yard line during this experiment.
The NFL/Hall of Fame Game will cap a memorable weekend for Giants and Bills fans one night after former Giants defensive end MICHAEL STRAHAN and former Bills wide receiver ANDRE REED are inducted into the Hall. Additionally, former Giants linebacker HARRY CARSON (Hall of Fame Class of 2006) and former Bills quarterback JIM KELLY (Hall of Fame Class of 2002) will serve as honorary captains and participate in the pregame coin toss.
“This year especially, I am so thankful that I can be on hand to share in a great weekend that shines the spotlight on the Buffalo Bills,” says Kelly. “It is a great honor for me to represent the Bills organization at the coin toss to kick off the season. The entire experience will bring back memories from 2002 when so many of the Bills family – fans, players and staff – joined me in Canton for one of the most memorable times of my life.”The Giants, who played in the first NFL/Hall of Fame Game in 1962, will make their fifth appearance in the preseason classic (1962, 1972, 1985, 2002).
“There are five games [on our preseason schedule], and you approach it in different ways when you have five instead of four,” says Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN. “But we are going to benefit from this, from more opportunities in ournew offense."The Bills will play in the NFL/Hall of Fame Game for the fourth time in franchise history (1974, 1989, 2009). “Being in Canton as a rookie while Mr. (RALPH) WILSON was being inducted into the Hall of Fame was an honor,” says Bills center ERIC WOOD, who made his NFL debut in the 2009 NFL/Hall of Fame Game. “It was awesome for me going back to a stadium to play my first time in a Bills uniform where I played in two high school state championships. This year will be fun to be there in Canton while Andre Reed, a great player for the Bills and a guy I have become friends with, is
inducted into the Hall of Fame.”First-round wide receiver SAMMY WATKINS (No. 4 overall) of the Bills is anxiously awaiting his first NFL game action. “I’m definitely excited for the opportunity to experience my pro debut at the Hall of Fame Game,” says Watkins. “It was one of the first things I noticed when I looked at the schedule after being drafted by the Bills. Growing up a Bills fan, the chance to play in Canton on the same weekend that Andre Reed gets inducted into the Hall will be surreal.”
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