NEW YORK (AP) – Yep, that’s Peyton Manning wearing No. 18 and throwing passes. The uniform might look strange, though.
And yes, that’s a female line judge making calls in the Green Bay at San Diego game.
The first full weekend of preseason games kicks off Thursday night with Manning leading the Denver Broncos at Chicago, his first action since the playoffs after the 2010 season for the once-indestructible quarterback.
On the same night, Shannon Eastin makes history when she officiates in the Packers-Chargers matchup – on national television, no less. Eastin is one of the replacement officials hired by the league while the regulars are locked out after their contract with the NFL expired.
Also Thursday, second overall selection Robert Griffin III leads the Redskins at Buffalo. Top overall pick QB Andrew Luck must wait until Sunday for the Colts’ first exhibition game, at home against St. Louis.
The rest of Thursday’s night schedule has New Orleans, already 1-0 after beating the Rams in the Hall of Fame game, at New England; Pittsburgh at Philadelphia; and Baltimore at Atlanta.
On Friday, it’s the Super Bowl champion New York Giants at Jacksonville; the New York Jets at Cincinnati; Tampa Bay at Miami; Arizona at Kansas City; Cleveland at Detroit: and Minnesota at San Francisco.
Saturday’s matchups have Houston at Carolina and Tennessee at Seattle.
Dallas at Oakland finishes off the weekend on Monday night.
Denver (No. 10 in the AP Pro32) at Chicago (No. 11 tie)
Imagine the anticipation Manning is feeling about getting back on the field after neck surgery forced him to miss all of last season, then the Colts let him walk as a free agent. The four-time MVP can’t possibly be treating this as another friendly.
“I think he’s anxious to get in there, just like all of our starters,” coach John Fox said.
Even Bears QB Jay Cutler is eager to see Manning back behind center.
“I think everyone is,” Cutler said. “There are a lot of question marks over there, but Peyton’s Peyton. He’s going to be on top of things, and I’m sure he’s going to look fine.”
Green Bay (No. 1) at San Diego (No. 16)
Extra spice in this game comes from the 42-year-old Eastin’s debut.
“I believe I am ready,” said Eastin, a referee in the MEAC (FCS division). “I’m a realistic person and I know what is realistic for me. I am not going to play football. I feel it is realistic for me to officiate.
“I make myself ready for any opportunity that comes my way. I will come in with my eyes wide open.”
Washington (No. 25) at Buffalo (No. 19)
Anticipated rookie debut No. 1. Griffin’s throwing motion is poetry, but he might not be making many rhymes against Buffalo’s revamped defense that features end Mario Williams, the only $100 million defensive player in NFL history.
“We’ve talked about what it looks like by just looking at the names written down,” holdover defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “Sure, that looks good. But can we take it and put it on the field? And that’s what we’re trying to do now.”
The Bills want to make a good first impression, which could mean lots of pass pressure on RG3 early.
“I’m not going to make it too big to where I can’t seize it, so go out, have fun and do what coach asks me to do,” Griffin said. “I think I’ll be more anxious than nervous. When you’re anxious you can’t wait to go succeed. You just got to go out and play the game. It’ll be an eye-opening experience and I look forward to it.”
St. Louis (No. 28) at Indianapolis (No. 32)
Anticipated rookie debut No. 2. Luck won’t want to force things and knows comparisons to Manning will be coming regardless of how he fares.
“Andrew’s going to be good. He’s going to be really good,” veteran receiver Reggie Wayne said. “He’s really smart. He knows what’s going on around him. He understands the concept; he understands the terminology. He understands it all.”
New Rams coach Jeff Fisher understands the rebuilding in St. Louis will take time. Already, he has a loss, 17-10 against New Orleans in the Hall of Fame game.
Pittsburgh (No. 7) at Philadelphia (No. 8)
Andy Reid plans to coach the Eagles just two days after son Garrett was buried. More than 900 people, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, general managers and coaches from other teams and current and former players, attended the funeral service Tuesday.
“You feel the strength of the team,” Reid said when asked why he came back so soon. “I felt it with my family the past couple of days, and I feel it with the team. I’m a football coach, that’s what I do, and I know my son wouldn’t want it any other way. I can’t put it to you any more frank than that. He loved the Philadelphia Eagles. I know what he would want me to do.”
New Orleans (No. 9) at New England (No. 2)
In regular season, this would be a shootout. But Drew Brees and Tom Brady barely will play.
N.Y. Giants (No. 3) at Jacksonville (No. 31)
Champion Giants get started, but already plagued by injuries.
Minnesota (No. 29) at San Francisco (No. 4)
Randy Moss goes against team he once starred with.
Baltimore (No. 5) at Atlanta (No. 13)
Falcons did no game-planning for this one.
Houston (No. 6) at Carolina (No. 20)
Year 2 for Panthers QB Cam Newton could be spectacular.
Cleveland (No. 30) at Detroit (No. 11 tie)
Uh-oh. Browns already have injury woes, including top pick RB Trent Richardson.
N.Y. Jets (No. 17) at Cincinnati (No. 14)
Look for lots of Tim Tebow in this one.
Dallas (No. 15) at Oakland (No. 23 tie)
Cowboys finish off their West Coast stint as Dennis Allen coaches first game for Raiders.
Arizona (No. 23 tie) at Kansas City (No. 18)
Chiefs have three key players back from long-term injuries: RB Jamaal Charles, S Eric Berry, TE Tony Moeaki.
Tampa Bay (No. 26) at Miami (No. 27)
Does anyone really want to sit in the heat to watch this one when it doesn’t count? Or even if it does?
Tennessee (No. 21) at Seattle (No. 22)
Two teams with off-field woes to contend with, especially Titans WR Kenny Britt and Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch.