After 20 years as a New England Patriot, Tom Brady will embark on the latest stage of his quarterback career with a stiff test against fellow veteran Drew Brees.
Brady’s first game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on September 13 in New Orleans as the NFL released its much-anticipated schedule, indicating it plans to start the season on time despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Brady will face Brees and the Saints on the road three days after the Kansas City Chiefs open defence of their Super Bowl title against the Houston Texans in two can’t-miss encounters revealed during the announcement of the league’s full schedule.
NFL vice-president Troy Vincent said they are hoping to open on time despite the global outbreak, which has shut down the NHL, NBA and postponed MLB’s opening day.
The 17-week regular season is due to conclude on January 3, and the play-offs will culminate with the Super Bowl on February 7 in Tampa.
“The plan is to move forward as normal, play a full schedule until the medical community tells us otherwise,” Vincent told the NFL Network.
“Our approach is to make sure we are responsible with a proper plan. We want to make sure we are following any guidelines as it pertains to governors’ stay-at-home orders and policies. Let’s make sure we are following those guidelines. We are preparing to play a full season.”
The Los Angeles Rams will play their inaugural game in the new SoFi Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13. The stadium, located in the south-central Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, is also home to the Los Angeles Chargers, who kick off their home schedule against the Chiefs on September 20.
Brady joined Tampa Bay in March, signing a two-year, $50-million contract after an all-star career with the Patriots.
The six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback will be reunited in Florida with one of his favourite targets, tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski retired in March 2019 after he had suffered about 20 concussion in his career, but came out of retirement to follow Brady to Tampa.
New England, who will be quarterbacked this season by Brady’s 2019 understudy Jarrett Stidham, will open at home against the Miami Dolphins on September 13.
“Stid worked hard last year. He was our backup quarterback, and he made a lot of progress in off-season,” said New England coach Bill Belichick on Thursday. “He will get out there and be ready to go. We will see where it takes us.”
The Patriots also have a matchup against another of Brady’s former backups, Jimmy Garoppolo, when they host the San Francisco 49ers on October 25.
Garoppolo will face Belichick, who sent him to San Francisco for a second-round pick in 2017. Stidham will be under the microscope as he tries to fill Brady’s massive shoes.
The inaugural home game for the Las Vegas Raiders will be Monday, September 21 against the Saints.
The 49ers lost 31-20 to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl last season. Kansas City’ first game will be the rematch of a divisional playoff contest from January, when the Chiefs overcame a 24-0 deficit to stun the Texans 51-31.
Christmas Day contest
The NFL will play one game on Christmas Day, which falls on a Friday, with the Minnesota Vikings visiting the Saints. The last time the league scheduled a game on a Friday was 11 years ago.
The three-game Thanksgiving Day schedule features the Texans at the Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins at the Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens battling the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers will make his Indianapolis Colts’ debut on September 13 at Jacksonville.