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Packers-Colts canceled over rock-hard field paint

CANTON, Ohio — Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts was canceled because of field conditions at Tom Benson Stadium.

The issue stemmed from the paint used on the logo and in the end zones. Both teams were worried about player safety as crews worked feverishly to spray solvent on the area around the midfield logo.

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Hall of Fame president/executive director David Baker called the decision to cancel the game "difficult," but he added that it was an "easy, ethical decision." He told ESPN's Lisa Salters the call was made after consulting with coaches Mike McCarthy and Chuck Pagano, as well as NFL COO Tod Leiweke.

Both teams remained at the stadium, which instead hosted a fan fest-type event. According to Baker, fans will be refunded their money.

"I thought it was a joke at first, honestly. Sort of like a pull-your-leg, preseason type of a joke," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck told ESPN, which was to broadcast the game. "I understand that someone had to make a very tough decision, and I respect that. But I know I'm disappointed. I wanted to get back on the field, obviously, with what happened last year. This is one of those first steps back."

In a joint statement, the NFL and NFL Players Association said that while they were "disappointed for our fans," player safety "is our primary concern."

"There was a lot of conversation but, at the end of the day, you've got to make a decision, and the decision was made for player safety," McCarthy said. "It's not how you got there or why you got there."

One Packers player described it as "like cement" at midfield, where workers spent more than an hour trying to make it playable.

"The end zones are just as bad," the same player said about 90 minutes before the scheduled 8 p.m. ET kickoff.

"The paint on the logo won't allow a cleat to penetrate it," a Colts source said. "A definite hazard to player safety."

Crews worked to spray solvent on the area around the midfield logo ahead of kickoff, but eventually the Hall of Fame Game was called because of the field conditions. Mike Wells/ESPN

According to another source, the problem was made worse when workers tried to use heat to dry the excess paint, as that melted the rubber pellets in the field turf.

Colts owner Jim Irsay called it a "very unusual situation."

"Earlier in the day the league and the association looked at the field, and it was playable," Irsay said. "Then there was some painting that occurred."

Baker said he was made aware of the issue at 5:30 p.m. ET, at which point he went out to the field and met with representatives from both teams.

"We were trying to see if we could get the field good to play with about two hours before the game; even up to almost 90 minutes we were hoping that a wash-down and a certain attempt to make it right could be found," Irsay said. "In the end, we found that we weren't able to do that with the time crunch that we have. Obviously we didn't want to delay the game for hours or anything like that."

Said ESPN in a statement: "While disappointed, we support the NFL's decision as the safety of the players is paramount. We look forward to the debut of football in Los Angeles next Saturday night."

Baker said there were "still some guys who wanted to play," but that they respected the decision to cancel the game.

"The disappointing part is [fans] not getting a game from us," said Packers receiver Randall Cobb, though he echoed the need to prioritize player safety.

"I thought it was a joke at first, honestly. Sort of like a pull-your-leg, preseason type of a joke."

Colts QB Andrew Luck

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN's Darren Rovell that the league will work with the Packers and Colts to sort out their own financial reimbursement for a game not played.

Packers fan Mike Wallenfang, who was visiting from Green Bay with his two sons, said he thought the fans should have been informed sooner, as they weren't told anything officially until Baker addressed the crowd.

Added fellow fan Don Hayes: "It's bad enough that it took me 12 hours to get here from Green Bay because of road construction. I understand the need for the players' safety, but it's definitely frustrating. This is the NFL — they're designed to have the fields ready at any given time. And to sit here and not know the paint wasn't going to work, it's kind of ridiculous."

Resale ticket marketplace Stubhub issued refunds in full on Sunday night for those who bought tickets off its exchange. A spokesman for the company did not immediately return calls seeking comment as to how much money the site lost on the game's cancellation.

Sunday's game was to be the ninth event held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. This is not the same surface used in last year's Hall of Fame Game, in which Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham suffered a season-ending injury.

"We'll learn from this, without a doubt," Baker told Salters. "We're going to make sure this never happens again."

Asked whether the induction ceremony and game should be held at a different venue in the future to avoid such issues, Packers president Mark Murphy said, "I think that's a question for later, but I think the league and the Hall of Fame, and as owners and myself and others from the Packer organization — when we get together at league meetings, I think we need to look at some of those issues."

ESPN's Darren Rovell contributed to this report.

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