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NOTES & QUOTES FROM SPECIAL NFL KICKOFF EDITION OF FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA ON NBC

This isn’t about the flag. It is not about black and white. It is about making our country a better place to live.” – Tony Dungy

They are players, they are performers, they are entertainers, but they are also people and I think what has happened over the last month or so in our country, we are listening to these athletes as people and hearing their stories.” – Mike Tirico on NFL players

“Bill Belichick knows how to get the most out of a disgruntled veteran player. I was that disgruntled veteran player.” – Rodney Harrison on Cam Newton

“Proven commodities in a year like this…I think they have a great advantage over teams that have a lot of new players and coaches.” – Chris Simms on the impact of no preseason

NBC Sports’ Week 1 Coverage Continues Sun., Sept. 13, with Cowboys-Rams from New SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday Night Football at 8:20 p.m. ET; Coverage Begins with FNIA at 7 p.m. ET

STAMFORD, Conn. – Sept. 10, 2020 – NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2020 NFL season began tonight with a special edition of Football Night in America, leading into coverage of NFL Kickoff 2020, as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Mike Tirico hosted FNIA from NBC Sports Group’s Studio 1 in Stamford, Conn., and was joined by Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms. Due to COVID-19 precautions, two-time Super Bowl-winner Rodney Harrison and NFL Insider Mike Florio joined Football Night remotely from studios in their respective homes. Liam McHugh co-hosted the show on-site from Arrowhead Stadium.

Coverage featured musical performances by Alicia Keys, including a special rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and the national anthem performed by Chloe x Halle. Pre-game coverage also included the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV banner raising and an excerpt from an interview between Tirico and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that originally aired on last night’s NFL Inspire Change Special. McHugh also told the story about Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a medical school graduate who opted out of the 2020 season to work with patients at a long-term care facility.

Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) are calling tonight’s NFL Kickoff 2020 season-opener.

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Following are highlights from tonight’s special edition of Football Night in America on NBC:

ON COVID-19 IMPACT

Harrison on no preseason: “As a defensive player it would be very frustrating not having those preseason games because those preseason games get you in football shape. You use it to work on your tackling, which is a lost art right now. But it also gives you an opportunity to get on the field, get real, live game reps, and make mistakes and learn from them and have them not officially count against you.”

Simms on no offseason: “Proven commodities in a year like this, without an offseason … I think they have a great advantage over teams that have a lot of new players and coaches.”

Dungy on no preseason for the officials: “There is one other group that is at a loss right now and that is our officials. They have not had any training camp, no preseason games, some of them haven’t blown a whistle for eight months. So, if I am a coach tonight, I am ready with my challenge flag.”

Florio on COVID-19 testing: “The league has said that daily testing will continue until further notice. I’m told it’s expected to continue all year long and that’s a credit to the Players Association. The league recognizes that an idea that the Players Association pushed and pushed before training camp, because the league only wanted to do testing three times per week. The union wanted it every day. It’s made all players accountable to a routine. Every day they are tested, and every day, for the most part, they have been cleared. That sets the table for a strong possibility that the NFL will avoid any real problems with the pandemic as the season unfolds.”

Tirico on the impact of no preseason: “It is going to be odd on Sunday. We are going to see Tom Brady as a Buccaneer, Cam (Newton) as a Patriot, Philip Rivers with the Colts and remember with no preseason other than a highlight or two from training camp, we haven’t seen that. So, it is going to be sensory overload on Sunday when we watch that.”

ON SOCIAL JUSTICE

Dungy: “I’m really proud of these guys for standing together, speaking up and using their voice. For 13 years, I was a head coach and my first talk to my team every year was always that we want to win a Super Bowl. That’s why we’re here, but more than that, we need to make our community a better place to live. If we’re going to applaud them for going to Boys & Girls Clubs, if we’re going to applaud them for donating to charities, we’ve got to applaud them for using their voice to speak up for those that don’t have a voice. I think it’s been fantastic and I’m really proud of our players.”

Harrison: “I had a chance to speak with Tyrann Mathieu and I asked him why he decided to protest. He said wanted to use his platform to bring awareness and challenge the NFL, as well as the NFL owners, to get more involved. As black parents, my wife and I, we have had to have candid conversations with our kids about when they leave our home, how to conduct yourself in certain situations, how to act. Even talking to some of my white friends, I asked them, have you ever had to have these candid conversations with your kids, and they said no. They never had to have these conversations with their kids.”

Simms: “I’m proud of the players in the NFL, the coaches who have been supportive. The one thing that I’m seeing this time around that I’m encouraged about compared to four years ago, we’ve seen more white players speak out. And for me, that is going to make change happen in America. The prominent white quarterback -- Matt Ryan, Joe Burrow, Ryan Tannehill, Jared Goff -- they were right on this from the get-go and made their voices heard, let alone a guy like J.J. Watt. Those are the type of players that can get America, the people who are on the fence, to maybe change and see the light, what we’re all fighting for. I’m very encouraged by that.”

Dungy: “It’s not just speaking up, either. It’s doing things, being active in the community, coming up with solutions. So many of our players are doing that.”

Florio: “They [players] seem to be far more aware now of the power that they have than three years ago, the last time the anthem protests really engulfed the entire NFL. I have been in communication with a head coach and he told me this, players want change and action and they want to be involved. The players have a lot of power in this movement, they know that the games cannot be played without them. That is a realization that I think is fairly recent for most NFL players.”

Dungy: “I hope we don’t get hung up and focused on who’s standing, who’s kneeling, who’s in the locker room, who isn’t because that’s not the issue. I remember in 1968 after Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Olympics. I was a young boy, I asked my dad about standing for the national anthem. My dad was a World War II vet, and he told me, ‘Do what is in your heart, do what you believe in, but more than that, do something to make the situation better.’ That’s where we are right now and what we should be all about. Four years ago, on this show, we went down to Miami. Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas were in Miami -- they’re now playing for Houston -- they were two of the first players to kneel for the national anthem. I talked to them about that, and they said they got a lot of negatives, but they did things. They started these ride-alongs, got the police together with the kids in the community, had town hall meetings, they were active, and they did things to make the situation better. That’s where we need to be.”

Harrison: “I am so proud of all the black athletes that have stood up, but I am also proud of the white athletes that have stood up because it takes courage and it takes everybody to truly make change.”

Dungy: “This isn’t about the flag. It is not about black and white. It is about making our country a better place to live.”

Tirico on the Texans not being on the field for “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the national anthem: “There is going to be a lot of conversation about teams that do this. I am just looking at Houston and I don’t know the specifics, but from the outside they didn’t have full agreement about what to do as a team. So, they listened, which is what we are hopefully all doing more of, they came together, they bridged their differences and they have taken action together. Hopefully, that can be a symbol for what all of us do here going forward. Football will be happening during the year, but these stories are going to be out there and present. They are players, they are performers, they are entertainers, but they are also people and I think what has happened over the last month or so in our country, we are listening to these athletes as people and hearing their stories. White, Black, suburbs, cities, and hopefully we are all learning.”

ON CHIEFS QB PATRICK MAHOMES AND TEXANS QB DESHAUN WATSON

Dungy: “They’re setting the tone for what quarterbacks are going to look like in the future. When I came into the league as a young coach, everybody looked like Johnny Unitas, standing in the pocket, precise (accuracy). These guys are different…great athleticism by Patrick Mahomes, but unbelievable throws. Deshaun Watson, great thrower, but unbelievable athleticism and competitiveness.”

Simms: “They have everything, that’s what’s so awesome about them. They can beat you in so many ways.”

Harrison: “What really takes them to the next level is their attitude. They do such a great job of elevating their teammates…their attitude is always positive and even when they hit a little adversity, they never blame their teammates, they’re always taking the blame.”

ON CHIEFS

Simms on repeating: “If there’s a team to do it and a year to do it, I’m taking the Kansas City Chiefs…They’re too talented of a football team. There are too many difference makers on both sides of the ball. Andy Reid, the pressure’s off, 20 years we’ve been talking about, ‘Can he win the big game?’ He’s won it. I just think that’s going to embolden him.”

Simms on Tyreek Hill: “I think he’s one of the number one weapons in all of football and he opens up the field for this Chiefs offense.”

Harrison on Travis Kelce: “Anytime (Patrick) Mahomes gets in trouble or feels uncomfortable, he knows where #87 is to throw it up and give an opportunity to catch it. The big question for the Houston Texans is who will defend him?”

ON TEXANS

Harrison on RB David Johnson: “I think he is the X factor on their team. Four years ago, I thought he was the best versatile back in the National Football League. But now injuries have me questioning, just how much does he have left in the tank? He has a lot to prove. If they want to win tonight and get far in the playoffs, he is going to have to play well.”

Harrison: “Talking with Tyrann Mathieu, he thinks with DeAndre Hopkins they were very predictable. In all of the critical moments, you knew where the ball was going. He actually feels like they are more dangerous now without DeAndre Hopkins because they have…a bunch of guys and it forces you to cover the entire field.”

Dungy: “I hate to disagree with Tyrann, but I know when I had Marvin Harrison and he was the best receiver in football, I would’ve traded myself before I traded Marvin.”

ON BUCCANEERS

Dungy: “I live in Tampa and ever since Tom Brady signed, the excitement has been unbelievable. I think our only question down there is, what size are our Super Bowl rings going to be?”

ON PATRIOTS

Harrison on Cam Newton: “Bill Belichick knows how to get the most out of a disgruntled veteran player. I was that disgruntled veteran player. The fact that Bill Belichick named Cam a captain shows the team that he believes in Cam, but it also gives Cam added responsibility and it forces him to act mature in critical situations.”

Florio: “I was told Cam brings a different energy and leadership than Tom Brady because he’s so much younger. Now, they understand no one is going to replace Tom Brady and his six Super Bowl championships, but it very well could be that Cam Newton is the closest thing they could have ever found to follow Tom Brady.”

FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA

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