Patriots to open on a Monday night
DANA POINT, Calif. - The Patriots will open their season Sept. 14 at home against Terrell Owens and the Buffalo Bills in a "Monday Night Football" matchup.
The NFL announced the prime-time schedule for kickoff weekend yesterday at the owners' meetings, and the Patriots are a featured part of it with a 7 p.m. game that will mark the return of Tom Brady and the Buffalo debut of Owens.
The Patriots-Bills game is the first half of a Monday night doubleheader on ESPN that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Football League.
After the Patriots face the Bills, the Oakland Raiders will host the San Diego Chargers at 10:15. All four franchises were inaugural members of the AFL, which began play in 1960.
"It's pretty special for us to start our 50th season knowing that it's ABC/ESPN's 40th season with football, and then of course Tom Brady coming back," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is chairman of the league's Broadcast Committee. "Our whole team is excited. I've seen the initial workouts, and there is a whole spirit and camaraderie that is special.
"Being on the national stage, we're going to have some fun things planned that day to kick off the season. We're glad it could be a showcase game."
One of those fun things could be the Patriots wearing throwback jerseys. As part of the AFL celebration, they will wear replicas of their 1963 jerseys at least two times this year. The team could not confirm it would wear them for the opener, but Bills coach Dick Jauron was in favor of the retro duds.
"I'm assuming that," Jauron said. "It's going to be a great start to the 50th season of the AFL and I'm just really excited about it."
For the sixth straight time, the season will commence on a Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl champions hosting the game. The Pittsburgh Steelers will play host to the Tennessee Titans Sept. 10.
On Sept. 13, the Sunday night matchup is the Green Bay Packers hosting the Chicago Bears.
The Patriots were awarded the choices based on the loss of free agents Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, and Donte' Stallworth following the 2007 season. The Patriots' third-round pick was the highest of the 32 compensatory picks awarded.
New England now has six selections in the top 100: its own first-round pick (No. 23 overall), three second-round selections (34, acquired from the Chiefs for Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel; 47, acquired in a trade with the Chargers for a 2008 third-rounder; and its own at 58), plus a pair of third-rounders (its own at 89 and the compensatory pick).
The sense at the meetings is that owners, who are looking to lower player costs, are gearing up for a lockout in 2011. That is reflected in the new deal the league announced with DirectTV, which runs through 2014. A source who has seen the contract said there is a clause that calls for $900 million to be distributed to owners in the event of a lockout.
Goodell pointed out during his news conference that owners spent $4.5 billion on player costs last year. He was asked how realistic a lockout is looking.
"Right now, our entire focus is how do we ensure that we understand our priorities in the collective bargaining process and work to get an agreement," said Goodell. "We want to have an agreement. We want to continue to play football. Our owners feel that way. Our players feel that way."