NFL notebook: Buccaneers-Cowboys to kick off season; Patriots open at home against Miami

Tom Brady

Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady and the champion Buccaneers will open the season against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 9. Ben Liebenberg via AP

The NFL is returning to London in October, and Tom Brady begins his pursuit of an eighth Super Bowl title against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys when Tampa Bay hosts the league’s annual kickoff game on Thursday, Sept. 9.

The first game in London since the coronavirus pandemic will be played on Oct. 10 when the Atlanta Falcons face the New York Jets. A week later, the Jacksonville Jaguars meet the Miami Dolphins. Both games will be played at the stadium of Premier League soccer team Tottenham. The Falcons and the Jaguars will be the home teams.

The Patriots’ official Twitter account confirmed that the team will open up its 2021 season on Sunday, Sept. 12, at home against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. The game will air at 4:25 p.m. on CBS.

The full schedule will be released Wednesday night.

The season opens on the same field where the Buccaneers became the first team to win a Super Bowl at home. Other highlights from opening weekend include Matthew Stafford playing his first game for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears with SoFi Stadium welcoming fans for the first time. Most teams are expected to be at full capacity following a season played before limited crowds because of COVID-19.

Reigning AFC champion Kansas City hosts the Cleveland Browns in a playoff rematch in Week 1. The Chiefs eliminated the Browns in the divisional round last season despite losing Patrick Mahomes to a concussion.

Two other matchups feature playoff teams facing off in their first game. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to Cleveland in the wild-card round, visit the Buffalo Bills, who reached the AFC title game.  Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts host Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. In Philadelphia, Wentz was 0-4 against Wilson. The Las Vegas Raiders host the Baltimore Ravens in the first Monday night game.

WASHINGTON: Washington may have found its new left tackle with former Bears lineman and 2018 Pro Bowler Charles Leno Jr. signing a one-year contract with Washington worth $5 million, according to his agent, Ron Slavin.

Leno, who visited Washington’s training facility Monday, gives the team veteran experience at a position it targeted in the offseason. The team has promised competition at nearly every position in training camp, but Leno’s experience pins him as an early favorite to start, barring injury or another roster move. In his seven seasons with the Bears, he started 95 games (playoffs included) at left tackle. Only Morgan Moses, Washington’s starting right tackle, has as many career starts on the line.

A seventh-round pick out of Boise State, Leno, 29, had played every game for the Bears over the last six seasons, starting all but three of them at left tackle.

BRETT FAVRE, according to Mississippi’s state auditor, has only paid the state $500,000 of the $1.1 million he promised over a year ago. After it was revealed in May 2020 that Favre received $1.1 million in state welfare payments amid a $94 million embezzlement scandal, the Hall of Fame quarterback promised to send the money back.

State Auditor Shad White’s report said Favre was paid for speeches that he never gave, but the 50-year-old former quarterback claimed the money was for public service announcements that he actually recorded. White’s office said Tuesday it’s still missing $600,000 of that promised payment, the Associated Press reported.

Favre, who played college ball at Southern Miss and lives in the state, is not facing criminal charges and is not yet legally required to pay the money back, though that could change as a federal investigation is ongoing.

“He’s under no obligation to do so, other than him giving his word,” state auditor’s spokesman Logan Reeves told the AP.

OBIT: Jerry Burns, the colorful character who took over as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach in a time of turmoil and led the team to three playoff berths, has died. He was 94.

The team announced Burns’ death. Vikings spokesman Bob Hagan said Burns’ son-in-law informed him of Burns’ death Wednesday morning.

Burns helped the Green Bay Packers win the first two Super Bowls as defensive backs coach, then joined iconic Vikings coach Bud Grant as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in 1968. Burns held the position until 1985, and became head coach in 1986, following Les Steckel’s 3-13 season in 1984 and Grant’s 7-9 campaign in 1985 when he was coaxed out of retirement.

Burns had a 55-46 record, including 3-3 in the postseason, before retiring after the 1991 season. His 1987 team came on strong at the finish before losing to Washington for the NFC championship. He led the Vikings to regular-season records of 11-5 and 10-6 the next two years, both ending in playoff losses to San Francisco.

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