If the Hall of Fame Game happens, it likely will be without fans in attendance, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.
"As much as I hate to say this, because we've all been looking forward to that and I know how much it means to the Canton area and the Stark County area and, really, across the country, it's a great, great event that we've been looking forward to, [but] having a crowd that size is highly unlikely," DeWine said via WKYC-TV. "Certainly, it could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today.
"Again, we have to see where we are at that point, but that's a large crowd, a lot of people together. These are the things that we've talked about all the way through this as we open Ohio up and we get back to work and we get back to doing the things that we like, probably the last things that are going to be able to be open are the big crowds, particularly when you have big crowds that are close together. So we have to continue to look at it and make decisions as we move forward, but if the question was, 'could that even occur today?' the answer would be, 'no.'"
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium has a capacity of 23,000.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio has surpassed 42,000 with a death toll approaching 2,600, according to data updated Tuesday on the state's COVID-19 website.
Despite the data and the governor's comments, Hall of Fame communications vice president Rich Desrosiers on Tuesday said options are still being evaluated for the game.
"It has always been the hall's position that its summer slate of events would be held only in a manner safe for all participants, spectators, our Hall of Famers, staff, and the thousands of volunteers who make Enshrinement Week possible," he said. "The governor did not speak specifically to holding the game or related events with reduced crowds or at venues set up to maximize safe physical distancing -- contingencies the Hall has been working on since mid-March.''
League sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter last week that the NFL and the players union are discussing potential changes to the preseason schedule, including the elimination of some games, a delayed start to training camp and a gradual increase of players' workload. The Steelers and Cowboys are set to report to training camp July 22, 15 days before the scheduled preseason game, league sources told Schefter.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL's offseason program has been entirely virtual, and only players who are rehabilitating injuries are allowed at team facilities. Some coaches are allowed to return to the facility, provided they comply with local laws and NFL guidelines. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin returned to the Pittsburgh facility more than a week ago.