Aaron Rodgers will be making his national television debut in New York Jets colors on Thursday, but not in an actual uniform. NBC will surely keep its cameras on him throughout the Hall of Fame Game, but his only physical interaction with the Cleveland Browns will be his post-game dap with Deshaun Watson.
Robert Saleh said to the media on Sunday that he does not anticipate any starters playing in the NFL preseason classic. For the Browns, Kellen Mond and Dorian Thompson-Robinson will be behind center as Watson, and second-stringer Joshua Dobbs will not suit up for the game, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski.
The football played during the NFL’s return to national television will be less crisp and much slower than the first 2023 regular-season game that will be played in Kansas City on Sept. 7. Still, the football-starved American public will claw at this game like a water bottle during double practice sessions in the 20th century. The ratings for last season’s Hall of Fame game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars fell and still more than five million people tuned in.
With young people watching less and less live sports, an exhibition like the Hall of Fame Game does offer an advantage for the modern television viewer. It is an ideal event for a smartphone-addicted human being.
There is enough football environment to satisfy the senses of a person who enjoys the sport. The field lines are drawn, pads will pop every single play, and Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth will be narrating the festivities from start to finish.
Just enough ingredients to make the evening appear to be an NFL game will be present. All that will be missing is the high stakes of a regular season in which teams only play one game per week, and the actual best football players in the world. But fear not, because this is a time to enjoy all of the distractions you want to punch yourself for briefly indulging in during a Redzone Sunday.
Save $15 and go pick up the takeout yourself. Get lost on Instagram and forget about the game for five minutes, 20 minutes...hell, scroll for a whole quarter. If you need to go to the bathroom, don’t rush. Enjoy the go. Nothing related to winning or losing a football game will be remembered about this night after the enshrinement ceremony on Saturday.
All this game does is save viewers from the decision fatigue of deciding what to watch on a summer evening. There is no need to decide what series to binge or a reality show marathon to view. Just park the T.V. on football for a few hours and feel free to act like it’s not even there. If Collinsworth gets excited and sparks your curiosity, watch the replay for a few seconds and get back to TikTok and your tacos.
Rodgers wearing Jets gear from a mannequin at a Champs Sports in northern New Jersey does not exactly qualify as the NFL season being underway, but Zach Wilson will be on the field auditioning for a starting role elsewhere. Stefanski and Saleh will be pacing the sidelines with the same grumpy looks that will be pasted to their faces in October, so an NFL-like substance will be on television Thursday night.
Enjoy the glimpses of out routes and zone reads, and get back to however else you are passing the time until Scott Hanson again welcomes you to seven hours of commercial-free football.