Football is back. Well, at least close enough to quench the thirst of NFL fans.
Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Game will usher in a magical weekend at the Hall of Fame, that will culminate in eight new members being inducted. Below is everything you need to know about the game, along with a reminder of this year’s Hall of Fame class.
5 Things to Know
--This is the first of five preseason games that both the Broncos and Falcons will play before the 2019 season.
--Former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco won’t make his Denver Broncos debut tonight, with head coach Vic Fangio announcing that former Stanford quarterback Drew Lock will start under center, with Flacco expected to be inactive.
--Speaking of Fangio, this will be his first game on the Broncos sideline. The 60-year-old was the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator the last four seasons under John Fox initially and then Matt Nagy a year go. Prior to that, he had been Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator for four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
--Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, won’t be active this evening either. 38-year-old Matt Schaub will instead start at quarterback for the Falcons. Schaub has been in the league so long that he used to be Michael Vick’s backup in his first stint with the Falcons.
--2019 will be Dan Quinn’s fifth season as the Falcons head coach. Under his leadership, the Falcons have gone 36-28 in the regular season and 3-2 in the postseason. Of course, one of those two postseason losses came in Super Bowl 51, when the Falcons infamously blew a 28-3 lead to lose to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in overtime.
The 2019 Hall of Fame Class
Tony Gonzalez - It’s fitting that the Falcons are playing in this year’s Hall of Fame Game, because Gonzalez spent the final five seasons of his career playing his home games in Atlanta. From here, Rob Gronkowski’s peak dominance makes him the greatest tight-end of all-time, but Gonzalez certainly has a case - he was a 14-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro and finished his career with 1,325 receptions, the second most of any pass catcher in NFL history.
Ed Reed - Reed, who spent 11 of his 12 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, finished his career with 64 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries. The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year was perhaps overshadowed by his Hall of Fame teammate Ray Lewis, but he’s one of the greatest safeties of all-time.
Champ Bailey - While running-back Clinton Portis had a nice career, one of the more lopsided trades in recent NFL history may be the one that sent Bailey and a second round pick to the Broncos ahead of the 2004 season so the Redskins could acquire Portis. While Portis ran for nearly 10,000 yards in his career, Bailey made 12 Pro Bowls and was a three-time All-Pro. He’ll add Hall of Famer to his resume this weekend.
Ty Law - Last month, Rodney Harrison argued that those who have been a part of the New England Patriots dynasty have had their individual greatness overshadowed by the aura surrounding Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. But Law played for the Patriots from 1995-2004, helping the Brady-Blichick duo to win their first three Super Bowl titles. He’s perhaps overshadowed in a class that features Reed and Bailey, but Law had 53 regular season interceptions, and six career postseason picks.
Kevin Mawae - The long-time president of the NFLPA and current Arizona State offensive analyst was one of the best offensive lineman of his era, making eight Pro Bowls and three times being named an All-Pro.
Johnny Robinson - While three defensive backs in this class got in within 10 years of their respective careers ending, it took Robinson so long to get in that he actually began his career in 1960 with the Dallas Texans. Never mind that he began his career as a wide receiver, because Robinson transitioned to safety in his third season and finished his career with 57 picks. At age-80, the Kansas City Chiefs icon will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
Gil Brandt - Though he’s known to some now as a football writer, that does a great disservice to his legacy as an executive. From 1960-1988, Brandt and Tom Landry built the Dallas Cowboys brand, helping create a culture that led the Cowboys to 20 straight winning seasons between 1966 and 1985, along with two Super Bowl titles.
Pat Bowlen - Though Bowlen passed away earlier this summer, there’s likely to be a sea of Broncos fans that travel to Canton to honor one of the most beloved (and successful) owner in sports history. The oil tycoon owned the Denver Broncos from 1984 until his passing, with the Broncos winning three Super Bowl titles during that period and employing two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time; John Elway and Peyton Manning.
Location: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at Canton, Ohio
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Stream: NBC Sports Stream