The 2020 season will get underway Sunday afternoon when the Eagles take on Washington. They have already spent their summer dealing with COVID-19 restrictions, plus the issue of social justice, which players are ready to put front-and-center during the NFL’s opening weekend.
Eagles safety Jalen Mills said the team is planning to address the issue before the game starts.
“We kind of do have something that we are putting together,” he said. “Kind of want to keep it in-house right now because we’re still trying to finalize everything, but we do have something planned.”
The Chiefs and Texans made their statement on Thursday night. Before the start of that game, the players and coaches joined together at the center of the field. Some of the few fans permitted in the stands booed when the players stood together.
Mills insists their message is about hope and not a message meant to offend anyone.
“There’s no sign of disrespect to anybody,” he added. “No type of race. It’s about unity, and that’s the message. Whether it's our message, whether it's Kansas City's or Houston's message, or if it's any other team in this league that decides to do something for this, we've got to let these people know that it's no form of disrespect.”
A statement or not, the Eagles will still have a game to play on Sunday.
For Doug Pederson and the rest of the NFL coaches, there’s a lot more uncertainty about their opponents at the start of this season.
“It’s the unknown,” Pederson said. “Even if it’s an opponent that we know or a coaching staff that we know, there’s still the unknowns of what have they been working on in training camp. You're coming out with different plays, different defenses, things of that nature.”
The absence of fans has also been discussed frequently during the off-season. While some teams like the Chiefs are allowing a limited number of fans, stands will be empty this Sunday for the Eagles game against Washington. The Eagles’ recent road games in Washington, D.C. have been more like home games, as a host of Eagles fans flocking south.
Pederson's players have admitted how much they will miss the roar of the crowds, even in a stadium away from home.
“It's going to be different,” Pederson noted. “It's going to be kind of eerie. When you step out into a stadium right at kickoff, the crowd and the energy and the electricity in the stadium is something we all feed off of.”