It's the first NFL Sunday since the coronavirus pandemic began. Here's what you should know

With most teams playing today, here's what you need to know with the first NFL Sunday.


It's the first NFL Sunday of the season, which typically signals the start of tailgating, fantasy football trash talk and Scott Hanson of "NFL Red Zone" gracing your television screen.

However, things will be very different this year.

There will be no fans in most stadiums to start the year, and you may not see some of your favorite players suit up due to the pandemic.

With most teams playing today, here's what you need to know with the first NFL Sunday.

Some players kneel, others stay in locker rooms

Players and coaches kicked off the 2020 season in different ways when it came to social justice messages. Some knelt. Some stood. Some didn’t come out for the national anthem.

The Minnesota Vikings locked arms in the end zone about a half-hour before their game against Green Bay for the recorded performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” after nine family members of the late George Floyd were recognized on the video board from their perch in the upper concourse.

The group included three brothers and one sister of Floyd, the handcuffed Black man who died on May 25 about three miles from the stadium when a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

In Detroit, the Lions lined up shoulder to shoulder at the goal line and the Bears faced them as they stood side by side 80 yards away. After a moment of silence, the video boards showed Alicia Keys singing “Lift Every Voice.”

In Jacksonville, Colts coach Frank Reich took a knee during the national anthem, the only one on the sideline to do so. The Jaguars were in the locker room.

Neither the Bills or Jets were on the field in Buffalo for the “Star Spangled Banner.”

In Cleveland, Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett one of three Cleveland players who knelt during anthem in Baltimore. Baker Mayfield announced yesterday on Twitter he had changed plans and stood.

Social justice initiatives

Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a series of social justice initiatives the league has planned, including helmet decals, a voter activation push and phrases stenciled in the end zones.

Teams will have the phrases "It Takes All of Us" and "End Racism" painted in each team's end zones all season long.

The NFL will play the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing" — known as the Black national anthem — before games on opening weekend, while airing footage that showcases the social justice work of players and teams.

Goodell said that a number of players told him voting was the No. 1 issue that was important to them, which helped spur NFL Votes, a voting initiative the league launched in July.

It's a league-wide, nonpartisan initiative that Goodell said "supports and encourages civic engagement and voting of fans, players, legends and club and league personnel."

The initiative will focus on three pivotal parts of the electoral process: voter education, registration and activation. Education programs have been conducted with players on all 32 teams, and Goodell said that the league encouraged teams to offer their stadiums as polling centers.

Goodell, who said last month that he wished the league had "listened earlier" to Colin Kaepernick when he began protesting during the National Anthem back in 2016, also announced that the league's players will be able to "shine a spotlight on and honor victims of systemic racism and police brutality" with decals on their helmets that bear the victims' names.

Players will wear those decals all season long.

Chiefs begin title defense

The Kansas City Chiefs began their Super Bowl title defense by waxing the Houston Texans 34-20 on Thursday.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked as sharp as ever, and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire will only bolster one of the league's highest-scoring offenses.

The Chiefs look like they haven't missed a beat, and are the favorite to win it all again this year and repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Tom Brady in Tampa Bay

Quarterback Tom Brady shook up the football world when he decided to leave the New England Patriots and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.

With the Buccaneers, Brady will have arguably the most talented arsenal of weapons surrounding him on offense. All Pro players Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are two of the most talented receivers he's ever played with, and tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to join Brady.

While the 43-year-old Brady has shown signs of decline in recent years, he is widely considered the greatest quarterback of all time and could lead the Buccaneers to its first playoff win since the team won the Super Bowl in 2003.

Brady-less Patriots

With Brady in Tampa Bay, Patriots signed quarterback Cam Newton to take his place.

This is a new era for the Patriots without Brady under center. The team will display an entirely different offense as Newton is a mobile quarterback.

While the Patriots have had a number of star players opt out of playing this season due to concerns over COVID-19, it's hard to count coach Bill Belichick out.

Can the NFL finish out the season?

There were some doubts that the NFL would be able to kick off its season as scheduled due to the pandemic, but the league was able to get through training camp and start the season as planned on Thursday night.

While the league plans to play out the season as scheduled, things could quickly change with thousands of new coronavirus cases still being reported across the U.S.

For a full-contact sport like football — in which it's virtually impossible to avoid being close to others, even under the strictest guidelines — it is all but certain more players will test positive for the coronavirus, experts say.

The NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, acknowledged in an interview with NPR that it is anticipated the league will have more COVID-19 cases during the season.

"We expect to have positive cases," Sills said. "No matter how careful that we try to be and how many protocols we have in place, we know that this disease remains endemic in our societies and our communities, and it's highly contagious."

An outbreak could easily force the NFL to change its plans, and the league may have no choice but to shut down the season if a major outbreak occurs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.