Follow the NFL’s Week 1 – Highlights, coronavirus protocols, social justice protests, more

  • national NFL writer
  • NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
  • Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008

Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season is here.

The world has changed just a bit since the last NFL regular-season Sunday. It was December 29, 2019, and the NFL was looking forward to a postseason that would deliver the first Super Bowl victory in Kansas City Chiefs history. Eight months later, the NFL has returned amid a once-in-a-century coronavirus pandemic and a renewed push for social justice in the country.

Thirteen games are on the schedule, and ESPN has reporters at every stadium Sunday to follow it. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, all 3,600 players and team personnel who were tested Saturday for COVID-19 returned negative results, meaning everyone is eligible to participate in today’s games.

We’ll chronicle the highlights of today’s pregame, in-game and postgame action below, so be sure to check back throughout the day.

Promoting social justice in warmups

With the blessing and encouragement of the NFL, players and coaches are promoting messages of social justice during pregame warmups. Here’s Alex Smith, the veteran backup quarterback of the Washington Football Team. (Also, how about Alex Smith — who suffered deep complications from the compound leg fracture he suffered in 2018 — being on the field for warmups of any game?)

Some of the messages are more subtle. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick will wear a visor with a “Fritz Pollard” patch. Pollard was the first Black head coach in NFL history.

The NFL instructed every home team this week to emblazon the messages “End Racism” in one end zone and “It Takes All of Us” in the other.


ESPN has a separate page that highlights the sartorial choices of more players and coaches as they arrived at Week 1. Here, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tries to brighten everyone’s day.

Notable inactives

Amid a season of protocol and policy changes, one part of the NFL’s pregame rhythm will remain constant. Ninety minutes before kickoff, each team must release its list of inactive players for the game. But still, there is a change in how the list will be comprised. In 2020, teams will have the option to carry 48 active players, instead of the usual 46, as long as the team includes at least eight offensive linemen among the active group.

Sunday’s list of inactives for the early games includes Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who has an ankle injury that will prevent him from helping to protect quarterback Carson Wentz from a Washington Football Team pass rush that includes rookie Chase Young. Rookie Jack Driscoll will start in Johnson’s place.

Other early game inactives include:

  • New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who once seemed destined to be the Patriots’ 2020 starter. Veteran Brian Hoyer will back up Cam Newton against the Miami Dolphins.

  • Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring).

  • Eagles running back Miles Sanders (hamstring).

  • Chicago Bears linebacker Robert Quinn (ankle), who signed a five-year contract with the Bears in free agency.

What to watch for

Nine games will kick off at 1 p.m. ET. Here is what to look out for:

  • Cam Newton will make his debut as the New England Patriots’ new starting quarterback, at home against the Miami Dolphins. All eyes will be on Newton, but for different reasons. Some want to know whether he has finally returned to health after a broken foot cost him his job with the Carolina Panthers last season. Others want to know what Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have cooked up for Newton, a player with a far different skill set than predecessor Tom Brady.

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars are the only home team who will host fans Sunday. The NFL gave teams the option to have fans at games if state and local governments allowed it. The Jaguars will have a reduced capacity of about 17,000 at TIAA Bank Field for their matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, will work with Fox Sports to superimpose virtual fans onto the broadcast of their game against the Chicago Bears.

  • The Philadelphia Eagles will visit FedEx Field for the first time since the stadium’s home team dropped its nickname and became known, for this season anyway, as the Washington Football Team. Washington head coach Ron Rivera is one of three new coaches who will make their debuts in the early games, along with Matt Rhule (Panthers) and Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns).

  • One rookie quarterback will start Sunday: Joe Burrow, whom the Cincinnati Bengals made the No. 1 overall pick of the (virtual) April draft. The Bengals will host the Los Angeles Chargers.

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