It will be the introduction to a new season. And it will feature a bevy of introductions and 2005 playoff teams.
The 15-game 2006 NFL preseason national television schedule announced today – along with each team's preseason matchups – is highlighted by the debut of new national-TV partners, new announcing teams, and star players on new teams.
Both Super Bowl XL teams will be featured as well as both conference championship runners-up. Also every division winner from '05 will be seen this summer on national television.
It starts with the NFL's newest network partner – NBC – on Sunday night, August 6 when the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is played in Canton, Ohio at 8:00 PM ET between the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.
Calling the game will be NBC's "new/old" announcing team of AL MICHAELS and JOHN MADDEN, who partnered for the past four years on Monday Night Football (2002-05).
It will be a special weekend for Madden. The day before the game, he will join AL DAVIS and ART SHELL as former Raiders head coaches in the Hall of Fame. Madden coached Oakland from 1969-78, compiling a .759 regular-season winning percentage (103-32-7), the highest in history of any coach with 100 career wins.
The Sunday night game will be a Raiders' coaching reunion. Shell, a Hall of Famer since 1989, will be making his 2006 debut as Oakland's head coach. It will be his second stint at the team's helm. He led it to a 56-41 record from 1989-94.
The Hall of Fame game also will have special meaning for the Eagles. One of their greatest players, the late defensive end REGGIE WHITE -- the "Minister of Defense" – also will be inducted into the Hall.
The first full preseason weekend also will be packed with "introductions." It starts on Thursday night, August 10 when the Indianapolis Colts travel to the St. Louis Rams on FOX at 8:00 PM ET. One new face on the Colts will be quite familiar to the Rams. New Indy kicker ADAM VINATIERI boomed a 48-yard field goal with no time left to lift the New England Patriots over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI (20-17). For St. Louis, SCOTT LINEHAN will make his NFL head-coaching debut after helping the Miami Dolphins win their final six games last year as the team's offensive coordinator.
The next night (CBS, 8:00 PM ET), two of the top quarterbacks in the NFL will square off as TOM BRADY leads the AFC East champion Patriots into Atlanta to face the Falcons and QB MICHAEL VICK. Atlanta has spent a good part of its offseason upgrading its defense by acquiring such players as end JOHN ABRAHAM and former Patriots safety LAWYER MILLOY.
On Sunday on NBC (8:00 PM ET), two 2005 playoff teams meet when the Washington Redskins visit the Cincinnati Bengals. It will be the debut of a host of new Redskins, highlighted by the man who threw that surprising touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL, wide receiver ANTWAAN RANDLE EL. Division-winner Cincinnati is coming off its best season (11-5) in 18 years (12-4, 1988).
The weekend concludes with the Raiders at the Minnesota Vikings in the debut of Monday Night Football on ESPN at 8:00 PM ET. Calling the game will be MIKE TIRICO, JOE THEISMANN and TONY KORNHEISER. Making their first appearance for the Vikings will be new head coach BRAD CHILDRESS and Pro Bowl guard STEVE HUTCHINSON. The second-leading receiver in Vikings history, the Raiders' RANDY MOSS, will make his debut against his former team.
The next two weeks feature five games apiece.
On Thursday night, August 17, the Kansas City Chiefs – under new head coach HERM EDWARDS -- will visit the New York Giants on FOX at 8:00 PM ET. It will be a return to Giants Stadium for Edwards, who led the New York Jets from 2001-05. The Giants were NFC East Division champions in 2005.
The new starting quarterback of the San Diego Chargers will continue his preseason preparation on Friday night (CBS, 8:00 PM ET) when PHILIP RIVERSand teammates*travel to *the Chicago Bears, the NFC North champs of last year.
On Saturday, the NFL's second new national-TV partner, NFL Network -- which this year will carry regular-season games for the first time (eight Thursday and/or Saturday nights) – will cover (8:00 PM ET) the Patriots hosting the Arizona Cardinals and a player they know well – new Cardinals running back EDGERRIN JAMES. New England faced James in the old AFC Eastern Division and in 2003-04 playoff games as he became Indianapolis' all-time rushing yards (9,226) and rush-TD (64) leader. "It's a great situation," said James upon signing with the Cardinals, who will open their new 63,000-seat stadium this year. "I'm not scared to try something different."
The next night, on NBC (8:00 PM ET), the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, with the conference's best record (13-3) last season, will take on the Colts, who had the best mark in the AFC (14-2), in Indianapolis.
On Monday night, the New Orleans Saints will return to Louisiana when they face the Dallas Cowboys in Shreveport, Louisiana (ESPN, 8:00 PM ET). The Saints, under new head coach SEAN PAYTON, have high expectations for 2006 with the addition of quarterback DREW BREES, who hopes to have his injured shoulder ready by Kickoff 2006. The Cowboys have added a big-time receiver in TERRELL OWENS.
"We have always valued the support we receive in Shreveport and wanted to put this game in the national spotlight for the people of Louisiana," says Saints owner TOM BENSON.
The national TV schedule concludes the next weekend. On Thursday, August 24, the Miami Dolphins – who have acquired quarterback DAUNTE CULPEPPER -- visit the NFC Championship runner up Carolina Panthers on FOX at 8:00 PM ET.
On Friday, it will be a "Keystone State Special" when the Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers travel east to visit the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN (8:00 PM ET).
The next night features a Florida matchup of two of the NFL's best young quarterbacks as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' CHRIS SIMMS takes on the Jaguars' BYRON LEFTWICH in Jacksonville on CBS at 8:00 PM ET.
On Sunday, the second NFL Network game of the preseason (8:00 PM ET) will feature the return of new Houston Texans head coach GARY KUBIAK to Denver. As offensive coordinator of the Broncos from 1995-05, Kubiak helped lead the team to seven postseason trips and two Super Bowl titles.
The national TV schedule concludes on Monday night (ESPN, 8:00 PM ET) when the Green Bay Packers, under new head coach MIKE MC CARTHY, travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals.