NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 NFL season began tonight with a special edition of Football Night in America, leading into coverage of NFL Kickoff 2019, as the Chicago Bears hosted the Green Bay Packers at Chicago’s Soldier Field to kick off the NFL’s historic 100th season.
Pro Football Hall of Famer and Packers legend Brett Favre, as well as actress and comedian Betty White, who has the longest television career of any entertainer, opened NBC Sports’ coverage of NFL Kickoff 2019 tonight on NBC as White recounted some of the NFL’s biggest and most memorable moments through the years. Click here to watch.
Mike Tirico hosted tonight’s special edition of Football Night in America from Soldier Field, joined on-site by co-host Liam McHugh, Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy, two-time Super Bowl champion Rodney Harrison, NFL Insider Mike Florio and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms.
Coverage included McHugh’s interview with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. In addition, Kathryn Tappen reported from the NFL’s Kickoff activities from Grant Park in Chicago, leading into musical performances by Meghan Trainorand Meek Mill.
Pre-game coverage also included a feature on Favre and Bill Swerski’s Superfans discussing the history of the Packers vs. ‘Da Bears.’ Click here to watch the clip.
Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) call tonight’s NFL Kickoff 2019 season-opener.
Following are highlights from tonight’s special edition of Football Night In America on NBC:
Tirico on NFL’s 100th season: “All of us, no matter how long we’ve been around the league, are excited for Packers and Bears for the 199th time. Fitting that this rivalry kicks off the centennial season.”
Tirico: “The Bears brought nine kickers to minicamp. None of them won the job. That job belongs to Eddy Pineiro, acquired in a trade from Oakland in May, makes his debut tonight. Remember Robbie Gould was the kicker here for over a decade. The Bears cut him, and the last three years, he’s been the best kicker in the league, and four Bears kickers have totaled second-to-last in that time span.”
Harrison on S Eddie Jackson: “The thing about him is his great instinct and his ball skills. He kind of reminds me of Ed Reed and Charles Woodson. He told me that he looks up to Patrick Peterson. So, I expect him to have a big game tonight.”
Simms on QB Mitch Trubisky: “We know he’s a great athlete. We know he can run. I want to see him improve as a pocket passer. Decision-making, accuracy within the pocket — we know that’s how football quarterbacks win in this league.”
Dungy on LB Khalil Mack: “On the Bears’ defense, the star is Khalil Mack. He can wreck the game from the outside linebacker position. I’m curious to see how many times the Green Bay offense will leave their right tackle one-on-one. You just cannot afford to do this. Khalil Mack is too good to be single blocked tonight.”
Harrison on Trubisky: “You don’t have to be an all pro to win a Super Bowl. Good offensive line, really good guys, and a good defense.”
Dungy on Chicago fans heading into the season: “Walking around the stadium today, everybody, every fan is: ‘If our quarterback is okay, we’re going to win the Super Bowl’. That’s a lot of pressure on him. His coach — Mark Helfrich, the offensive coordinator — told me he’s talked to him all summer. ‘Just be yourself. Just be yourself’.’”
Dungy on Aaron Rodgers: “You’ve got to come in as the head coach and utilize the new system, but you have to maximize the strengths of the star quarterback. I had to do that with Peyton Manning, we came to a meeting of the minds. Aaron Rodgers, he’s got to be on board with it. I was disappointed that Aaron took his displeasure public. I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”
Harrison on Packers offense: “I have doubts about this offense. Really not Aaron Rodgers, I have no doubts about him, but the supporting cast; in particular, the wide receiver position. They have young, inexperienced guys, and I think the big question is who’s going to be that number-two receiver outside of Davante Adams to make plays.”
Simms on Packers offense: “I have all the same concerns you guys have. It’s still Aaron Rodgers. He’s one of the greatest we’ve ever seen, and I am excited to see how they utilize his talents in this new offense. I think we’re going to see more play action, more deep shots down the field, and you know I love watching Rodgers throw it deep.”
Simms on Rodgers: “We have no idea [what to expect]. Nonetheless, I’m excited. The offense needed a new look, needed a new scheme. When it comes to [head coach] Matt LaFleur, there’s question marks, certainly. He’s going to have to prove himself as worthy. Last year was towards the bottom of football in offense as far as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. He’s going to have to answer those questions, but nonetheless, Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are going to have a new look on the offense that I’m pumped up.”
Tirico on Antonio Brown: “Will Derek Carr have Antonio Brown coming out with him? The team plans to suspend Brown after a verbal confrontation with team GM Mike Mayock after posting a letter from Brown on Instagram. [Drew Rosenhaus] just spoke to Mike Florio and said he couldn’t give an answer whether A.B. will be in uniform come Monday night.”
ON STEELERS-PATRIOTS SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL:
Tirico on SNF matchup: “Two teams with six Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ middle name this summer has been addition by subtraction. No Bell. No Brown.”
Dungy on the Steelers: “They lost two great players [Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown], but they lost some big distractions. You see what’s going on in Oakland, that hasn’t been visible in Pittsburgh. I think they’re going to be better. That’s been the Steelers formula for 40 years, teamwork. I think we’re going to see that this year.”
Harrison on the Patriots: “[Losing Rob] Gronkowski is important, but center David Andrews is important for the team. He’s in charge of all communication at the line of scrimmage.”
ON NEW PASS INTERFERENCE RULE:
Florio: “We’ve never crossed this bridge before, judgment calls in the NFL. When pass interference is called on the field, it’s highly unlikely the review is going to pick up the flag. When it’s challenged, clear and obvious evidence of a player significantly hindering an opponent is what will trigger a ruling from replay review that interference happened.”
Simms: “I’m worried about it. I really am. I think we hit the over reaction from a non-call in a really big spot on the big stage, and I’m worried it’s going to just open Pandora’s box of craziness — fans criticizing the NFL, players criticizing. Guys like me and Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk talking about it, and the story should be about the play on the field and the 100th season.”
Florio: “I’m curious to see how aggressive quarterbacks get when they’re trailing in the fourth quarter. Hoping it’s not a penalty party here.”
MATT LAFLEUR WITH LIAM MCHUGH:
LaFleur on his first game as head coach: “Just getting ready to play a tough football game against a quality opponent.”
LaFleur on the potential to win with Aaron Rodgers: “I’m not going to make any predictions, but I really enjoy working with him on a daily basis. Obviously, he’s really talented, but he’s a really knowledgeable guy as well, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–