The NFL will begin its new clear bag policy for fans this weekend at the Hall of Fame inductions and game.
For security reasons, fans can no longer bring backpacks or large bags into stadiums. The NFL is ratcheting up its safety measures in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.
The only bags that can be taken into game venues are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC that doesn’t exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, including one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags.
NFL security director Jeffrey Miller says a secondary perimeter will be set up outside Fawcett Stadium, site of the inductions and the first preseason game, in which Miami plays Dallas. Fans will be reminded of the new policy, and the league plans to make acceptable bags available for fans before they line up to enter the stadium.
"We encourage our fans not to bring any type of bags," Miller said. "If they feel they need to have a bag with them, we basically changed what you can bring, the vessel you can bring (materials) with."
Banned are purses larger than a clutch bag, diaper bags, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, seat cushions, computer bags and camera bags, or any bag larger than the permissible size.
"This is the right thing to do from a public safety standing," Miller said, adding that the NFL constantly evaluates its stadium entry process. "In light of recent events, the tragedy of the terrorist attack in Boston, we wanted to ensure anywhere we have large groups of fans that we know we have limited that type of situation with fans only using the approved kind of bags to create a safe environment and a buffer zone, if you will."
NFL teams sent reminders of the new policy with season ticket renewals and also used the media to spread the word. Signs will be in stadium parking lots, and the NFL hopes each team will be able to hand out fliers about the limitations.
He also recognized "there will be some hiccups until fans become familiar with the policy."
"But it will not only create a safer environment, it will help us expedite fans’ entry into stadiums," he added.
Visitors to Canton for the inductions and game had mixed feelings about the restrictions.
JT Himmelrick was with his wife, Wendy, and son Will — all Steelers fans from Avella, Pa. He said they were aware of the changes and supported them, to a point.
"They were ready to do this before the Boston Marathon attack," Himmelrick said. "They released the information around Super Bowl time that the policy change was coming in the NFL stadiums, so we knew their plans.
"At the same time, I think they have gone a little too far."
Wendy Himmelrick pointed out that bringing cameras to the game without their protective bags would be unwise.
And Scott Osborn of St. Petersburg, Fla., pulled out his Nikon from its bag and shook his head.
"No way I’ll let that get kicked around in the stadium," he said.
His wife, Amy, said that goes for many items she no longer could bring to a game.
"There’s all kinds of stuff that gets dumped on the floor, and so you wouldn’t want to put anything there," she added.
Miller is optimistic that the plan will work, just as it has for several universities, including Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State.
"It is groundbreaking in the sense of a professional sports league adopting a policy across the league," Miller said. "I think what we will see moving forward is other sports leagues will follow the NFL’s lead. I know some are evaluating changes in their procedures.
"There will be adjustments to make, to the point that down the road we believe there will be less and less bags coming at all, even the types of ones we are approving."