It was just a few seasons ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the chosen ones. Now the honor finds its way back into the AFC North, as for the first time in club history, the Baltimore Ravens have been chosen as one of the two teams to participate in the 2018 edition of the Hall of Fame game.
Fittingly, and obviously not coincidentally, the Ravens have been chosen to participate this year in no small part due to the fact that they will also see one of their own being enshrined as part of the 2018 class of the Hall of Fame. That would be linebacker Ray Lewis, who to this day remains the face of the franchise.
Lewis was the second draft pick the organization made back in the mid-1990s after the Cleveland Browns uprooted and moved to Baltimore, changing the name along the way and establishing a ‘new’ franchise, complete with a fresh set of record books. The first was offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who is already in the Hall of Fame.
The Ravens’ opponents for the game will be the Chicago Bears, a fitting pairing given that the Bears are also sending their own storied linebacker, Brian Urlacher, into the Hall of Fame as part of the same class. Both elite linebackers were in their first year of eligibility on the ballot.
The other members among the modern candidates for the Hall of Fame are wide receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens and safety Brian Dawkins. Jerry Kramer, Bobby Beathard, and Robert Brazile complete the class, which is notably absent any Pittsburgh presence, in spite of the fact that Alan Faneca was among the finalists.
The Ravens ought to learn from the Steelers, however. During their participation in the Hall of Fame game in 2015, the year in which Jerome Bettis was enshrined, their kicker, Shaun Suisham, suffered a torn ACL that ended his career.
The Steelers directly attributed that and other injuries to the playing conditions on the Hall of Fame game field. They were very critical of the condition of the field, and a year later, the league was forced to cancel the game entirely for the same reason—of course, a year too late for Suisham.
Absent the field conditions, I personally do value the opportunity to participate in the Hall of Fame game. Those who participate are able to open up training camp earlier, and they also get to play in an additional preseason game, which is another in-game opportunity to evaluate the talent on your roster, which is especially valuable for the back half, and for rookies.
As it just so happens, tickets for both the game and the enshrinement ceremony go on sale today. Obviously, this would be much more compelling for Steelers fans had Faneca made it, but I figured it was worth passing along anyway.