- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

The Washington Redskins will start the 2003 NFL season when they play host to the New York Jets on Thursday, Sept.4. The game, to be carried on ABC, will continue the league's enhanced emphasis on high-profile season openers.
Similar to last year's opener in New York, the first game will add a series of live entertainment and events, to be called "Kickoff Celebration II." Plans for the Washington opening are not known, but last year's affair featuring Bon Jovi drew a reported 500,000 to Times Square and contributed to a 10 percent boost in aggregate TV ratings for the league's opening weekend. Press coverage for the league also spiked, with more than 700 reporters credentialed.
Live pregame specials will air on the day of the Redskins-Jets game on both ABC and ESPN, with ESPN planning to conduct its "NFL Countdown" show from FedEx Field.
The Redskins had been rumored for weeks as a potential participant in the season-opening game, but speculation had centered on the Jets playing former coach Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys.
"All options are still on the table [for this year's pre- and in-game entertainment]," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "It admittedly is going to be hard to top the success of last year's opener, but we have been successful in the past finding ways to better serve our fans and offer new things."
The game also will feature a number of former Jets playing for Washington. Last week the Redskins signed free agent guard Randy Thomas and kicker John Hall. Yesterday they signed kick returner Chad Morton to an offer sheet.
Moving the Thursday night opener from ESPN, where it aired last year, to ABC also marks a schedule change for the league's prime-time games. ABC will not air a Monday night game on the season's final week, essentially swapping the date for the Sept.4 game. ESPN will air Saturday and Sunday night games the final two weeks of the season. The changes are designed foremost to prevent unfair differences in rest time before the first round of the playoffs.
The rest of the 2003 schedule has yet to be announced, but the Redskins' out-of-division games will feature teams from the AFC East and NFC South, including Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.

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