Ezekiel Elliott Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys face the Arizona Cardinals in the first 2017 NFL preseason game. Pictured: Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott celebrate after a first down during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Getty Images

It’s been nearly six months since the last NFL game was played, as the New England Patriots came from behind to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Football will finally return Thursday night with the start of the 2017 preseason.

The Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals will start things off at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, doing battle in the annual Hall of Fame Game. It’s the first time in NFL history that the first exhibition game is scheduled for a Thursday, and it will precede Saturday’s Hall of Fame ceremony.

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Thursday will mark the first Hall of Fame Game in two years since last year’s game was canceled. The Indianapolis Colts were supposed to play the Green Bay Packers, but poor field conditions forced the NFL to eliminate the contest from Hall of Fame weekend.

Even though training camp has just begun, the Dallas Cowboys have made plenty of headlines in the last few weeks. The team released wide receiver and kick returner Lucky Whitehead in the wake of false reports that he had been arrested for shoplifting. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has been involved in a few incidents off the field, and he’s facing a possible suspension to start the year.

“I think we'll have a decision imminently. Of course, I don't know what that will be and wouldn't want to have conjecture in any way involving that,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on SiriusXM NFL Radio Thursday regarding Elliott, who is being investigated for an incident involving his girlfriend from a year ago.

“What I have seen, though, is the presentation of Zeke and his people and I've seen the league's presentation," Jones said. "There's no domestic violence involved here.”

Elliott had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history, teaming with first-year quarterback Dak Prescott to help Dallas win the NFC East and post the conference’s best record. Dallas lost to Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Arizona was one of the league’s most disappointing teams in 2016. Having averaged 11.3 wins over the previous three seasons, the Cardinals went 7-8-1 and missed the postseason.

With both teams set to play five exhibition games in 2017, many of the starters will likely sit. Prescott, Elliott, Carson Palmer and other big names probably won’t take the field until later in the preseason. When Tony Romo was healthy and expected to be Dallas’ starting quarterback last year, he didn’t play in the Cowboys’ Week 1 preseason game.

Week 1 of the preseason officially gets underway six days later when the Houston Texans visit the Carolina Panthers. Seven more games are on the schedule on Thursday, Aug. 10, followed by three games on Friday, Aug. 11. Dallas and Arizona will play their second preseason games on Saturday, Aug. 12.

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The Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers will be the last two teams to kick off their preseason. They’ll meet on Sunday, Aug. 13 in the Chargers’ first game since leaving San Diego.

The 2017 NFL regular season begins Thursday, Sept. 7 when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Patriots.