Charles Woodson speaks at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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The NFL Hall Of Fame Game Is a Borderline Scrimmage With a Rich History

The Pro Football Hall of Fame hosts the inaugural preseason game before every season, but when did the game first take place?

The NFL Hall of Fame game may not be the most exciting game of the season, but its history is as old and impressive as the Pro Football Hall of Fame itself in Canton, Ohio.

With the beginning of Hall of Fame weekend, the multiple-day event will culminate with the induction of a positively loaded class highlighted by 2000s legends, from lockdown defensive backs Darrelle Revis and Ronde Barber to superstar trench warriors Joe Thomas and DeMarcus Ware. But first, the Cleveland Browns will take on the New York Jets in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, kicking off the NFL preseason.

These are two of the most interesting squads in the AFC, and it will be exciting to see who does and doesn't make their preseason team debut. However, let's look a bit further back to the history of this beloved NFL tradition.

When Did The Hall Of Fame Game Start?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio

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The first Hall of Fame game was played before the NFL/AFL merger back in 1962, to celebrate the beginning of construction for the newly established Hall of Fame in Canton. That contest actually ended in a tie between the New York Giants and the then-St. Louis Cardinals.

The second edition took place a year later, the day after the Hall itself officially opened. There was no game in 1966 when the merger took place, but the tradition was picked up again a year later. Since then, it has been held almost every year, with a few exceptions such as the 2011 lockout, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and a strange situation involving poor field conditions in 2016.

Following the merger, from 1971 to 2010, the contestants usually included a representative from each conference. Since 2011, the league has changed the selection process a bit, instead endeavoring to include two teams that are strongly tied to at least one inductee in the weekend's incoming Hall of Fame class.

This year, the teams selected made plenty of sense. Thomas' illustrious ironman career is undoubtedly the crown jewel in Browns history since being re-established in 1999, and Revis is one of the greatest and most beloved Jets of all time. This hasn't been a factor for awhile, but the league has invited each of the past four expansion squads to participate in the Hall of Fame game as their first showing.

The preseason doesn't really have much of a bearing on what happens in this NFL season, but it's the official beginning of a football journey that will culminate in Super Bowl LVIII in February. Football is officially back, and the Browns and Jets are set to write another chapter in the history of one of the league's most cherished celebrations, on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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