By Zack Kelberman
DENVER (247 SPORTS) - A landmark achievement for the Denver Broncos will give way to national exposure.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday, amid NFL free agency, that Denver will kick off the 2019 preseason against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Aug. 1 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
This was wholly anticipated after team president Joe Ellis stated last month, following the Hall of Fame elections of Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey, that he's expecting the Broncos to be awarded the annual exhibition opener — a fifth preseason game.
"I don't think we're going to have to request," Ellis said. "I can't confirm it, but the sense I get is that we're going to be in the game."
Denver has played in the Hall of Fame Game three times since 1976, twice losing. Their last appearance came in 2004, with the Washington Redskins emerging victorious, 20-17.
Bowlen, who enters under the Contributor label, and Bailey, whose Denver career superseded his Redskins stint, become the sixth and seventh Broncos to make the Hall of Fame, joining quarterback John Elway (Class of 2004), tackle Gary Zimmerman (Class of 2008), running back Floyd Little (Class of 2010), tight end Shannon Sharpe (Class of 2011) and running back Terrell Davis (Class of 2017).
Bowlen and Bailey will officially be inducted on Aug. 3.
The hope is, a snowball effect ensues for the many deserving others patiently awaiting their busts, including safeties John Lynch and Steve Atwater, both of whom were not voted in this year.
"It's another step, yes," Ellis said. "I know if Pat were here, the first thing he would have said is, 'How come [Randy] Gradishar is not in? How come [Karl] Mecklenburg is not in? I'll go down the list: [Steve] Atwater, [John] Lynch, Tom Nalen, Rod Smith, all those guys.' That's who he battled for and he'd like to see those players in as well."
Teams that participate in the Hall of Fame Game have the opportunity to open their training camps early. Last year's participants, the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens, kicked off camp on July 16 and July 18, respectively, while the rest of the league began the following week. Heading into the affair, NBC Sports Chicago found that teams which won the the Hall of Fame Game over the previous five seasons had a combined 41-39 regular season record, while teams that lost posted a 40-40 record. The Bears and the Ravens each captured division titles in 2018.
"Honestly, I look forward to it," head coach Vic Fangio said at the Scouting Combine. "It gives us an extra week of camp and gives us more chances to prepare for the season. We'll use it to our advantage."
Because they brought in a new coaching staff, the Broncos are also permitted to start their offseason workout program on April 1, two weeks earlier than teams with returning coaches.
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