Chicago Bears to play Houston Texans in Hall of Fame game Aug. 1

NFL owners pass new kickoff rule at annual league meeting; trade deadline moved

Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus applauds his offense after a touchdown during their game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Bears will kick off their preseason a little bit early this year. They will take on the Houston Texans during the Hall of Fame game Aug. 1 in Canton, Ohio.

Two days later, three former Bears will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during a ceremony Aug. 3.

This will be the sixth time the Bears have participated in the annual Hall of Fame game, and the first time since 2018. The Texans have participated one previous time, ahead of their inaugural season in 2002.

The game will be played at 7 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which is adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Bears fans who travel to Canton for the weekend could see the current Bears on Thursday night, then watch Devin Hester, Steve McMichael and Julius Peppers be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. Former Texans star receiver Andre Johnson also will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“This game features two teams that finished the 2023 season strong and have key pieces in place for 2024,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “Bears fans have always supported their Hall of Famers, and they can welcome three more who will be enshrined in Canton this year, while Texans fans can see the franchise’s first Hall of Famer up close as part of the game and Enshrinement Weekend. The Pro Football Hall of Fame could not be any more excited about this year’s matchup – and this year’s class.”

Bears fans have always supported their Hall of Famers, and they can welcome three more who will be enshrined in Canton this year.”

—  Jim Porter, Pro Football Hall of Fame president

Their inclusion in the Hall of Fame game means that the Bears will have an additional preseason game. The Bears will play four preseason games, as opposed to the customary three. The Bears and Texans also will begin training camp several days earlier than the 30 other teams across the league.

It also could be a first look at the Bears’ new rookie quarterback. That, potentially, could be USC prospect Caleb Williams.

NFL passes kickoff change

NFL owners passed a new kickoff rule for the upcoming season. Touchbacks were at an all-time high last season and kick returns were at an all-time low. The new rule is an effort to make the kickoff more exciting, while also protecting players.

Under the new rule, the kicker will still kick from his team’s 35-yard line. Every other player will line up on the opposite side of the 50-yard line. All 10 remaining players on the kicking team will line up between their opponents’ 40- and 45-yard line. Two players from the return team are allowed to line up between the goal line and the 20-yard line. The remaining nine players on the return team must line up between the 30- and 35-yard line.

Only the kicker and the two deep return men are allowed to move before the ball either hits the ground or hits a player.

In the past, injuries occurred frequently on kick returns because players were running at each other at full speed from opposite sides of the field. This rule is an effort to minimize such collisions. The XFL has used a similar kickoff rule in recent years.

Additionally, teams may now only attempt an on-side kick in the fourth quarter and they must declare an on-side kick attempt. Surprise on-side kick attempts will be a thing of the past.

The new kickoff rule joins three other new rules that were passed Monday, including a ban on the “hip-drop tackle.” The kickoff rule reportedly passed on a 29-3 vote, with only the Packers, 49ers and Raiders dissenting, according to Sports Illustrated.

The new kickoff rule will debut during the Hall of Fame game, likely with Bears legendary return man Devin Hester in attendance.

NFL adjusts trade deadline

In a procedural change, league owners voted to move the trade deadline back by one week. The trade deadline will now be the Tuesday following Week 9. Previously, it was the Tuesday following Week 8.

The move will give teams an extra week to decide if they are buyers or sellers at the deadline. Compared to other pro sports leagues such as the MLB, NBA and NHL, the NFL trade deadline still is relatively early. Week 9 is exactly halfway through the 18-week regular season slate. Other pro sports leagues typically have their trade deadlines about two-thirds of the way through the regular season.

In another procedural change, teams now must make it more clear when an injured player is – or isn’t – traveling for an away game. Additionally, teams now can elevate a practice squad quarterback to the active roster an unlimited number of times if he is to be used as the emergency third QB.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.