By Andrew Zuhosky
You’ve been waiting seven months for an old friend of yours to return. Tonight, that old friend of yours is going to show up, and he’s not leaving again until the first weekend in February.
That old friend’s name is NFL football! Yes, the NFL is back for another year of exciting action every weekend. I’m pumped for the return of professional football.
This opening weekend brings with it a series of changes. There are two major ones in the Cleveland Browns organization.
Hue Jackson is the Browns’ newest head coach, and after a tumultuous offseason, Robert Griffin III is the team’s new starting quarterback. After all the trouble the Browns went through with Johnny Manziel, I think it’ll be very nice for Browns fans to have a veteran quarterback with postseason experience.
With Griffin already developing a great relationship with converted wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, I think those two will connect on long pass receptions more often than not this season.
Trust me on this one, folks. I saw them in action live during the Orange and Brown Scrimmage at Ohio Stadium on Aug. 7.
The Browns’ opponent in Sunday afternoon’s opener, the Philadelphia Eagles, also made some changes.
Last Saturday, the Eagles traded veteran quarterback Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a first round draft selection this coming spring and a fourth round pick in 2018.
This clears the way for new starter Carson Wentz, the former North Dakota State University quarterback and the second overall pick in last April’s draft. Out of all the rookies who were drafted last year, I have to believe Wentz is the most capable of turning his NFL team into a dynasty.
He practically turned North Dakota State into one on his own.
Another change is the cross-country move the Rams made this past offseason to Los Angeles. They’ll play the 49ers in San Francisco on Monday night in the second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader on ESPN.
In several years, I think the division will be up for the taking. If Goff and Gurley develop adequately, the Rams will be in the postseason annually.
I wouldn’t be a good writer if I were to let this column pass without mentioning the change made at quarterback by the Denver Broncos.
Back in March, Peyton Manning retired from the NFL after 18 seasons. How can the Broncos replace someone as legendary as Peyton?
Enter Trevor Siemian. For much of the exhibition season, Siemian was battling it out with current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez for the first-string gig.
He ended up starting two preseason contests, passing for two touchdowns. On Aug. 29, Siemian was named the starter and last Saturday, Sanchez was cut.
The Broncos play the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch tonight on NBC Sports.
I’ve mentioned some of the big changes that have happened around the NFL since the offseason throughout this column. There’s also a big change coming at ESPN.
As you might know by now, this is Chris Berman’s final season as the network’s main NFL studio host, with his duties ranging from pre-taped segments previewing the week’s games on “SportsCenter” to hosting “NFL Countdown” and “NFL Primetime.”
His longtime colleague Tom Jackson, who sat right next to him on “Primetime,” also decided to retire from TV this summer.
“NFL Primetime” was my favorite show back in the day. I couldn’t wait to turn it on every Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. to find out how all the teams did and hear what Boomer and TJ had to say.
I was so upset when that version of “Primetime” ended. Now that both of them will be gone, ESPN’s NFL coverage will never be the same.
Enjoy the NFL season.