Kyle Williams returns
When we last saw Kyle Williams in a game that counted, he had the misfortune of turning the ball over twice on punt returns in the Giants-49ers NFC championship game last season. The turnovers led to 10 points, including the game-winning score, in the Giants' 20-17 win that put them into Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots.
But Williams will be back fielding punts and kickoffs once more as the 49ers open the season on todaySunday at Green Bay's Lambeau Field. As he did in the Giants' game, he replaces the injured returner Ted Ginn Jr.
But the 49ers aren't worried that Williams will suffer any more misfortune.
"We've always been extremely confident in Kyle back there as a returner, both as a punt returner and a kickoff returner," coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Ginn has been out with an ankle injury since the 49ers' Aug. 26 preseason game against Denver.
Former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who suffered a knee injury on Aug. 18, will make the trip to Green Bay but is listed as questionable.
Opening day jitters
There's never quite an experience like your first NFL game, so it's no wonder that Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck looks forward to today'sSunday's opener against the Bears with a few pre-game jitters. Luck figures it will be similar to his first game at Stanford.
"I remember not sleeping very well the night before and realizing that I hadn't been hit in like a year-and-a-half," he said. But at least that hasn't been a problem this time. "I think preseason games helped out a lot," he said.
Luck won't be the only one on the Colts' sideline feeling the pressure. It's also the first game as a head coach for Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens' defensive coordinator.
"You always have those butterflies and nerves," Pagano said. "Once the thing is kicked off and you get in the flow of things, it kind of calms down, just like the players."
Brother vs. brother
For the first time since they were born on Aug. 13, 1987, the McCourty brothers will play against one another on a football field.
"This should be exciting," Jason said. "We've always played together, so it will be kind of cool to watch each other in live action, really rooting against each other."
Born in Montvale, N.J., the brothers played high school football together at St. Joseph's and then at Rutgers. Devon was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2010, while Jason was a sixth-round pick in 2009. (Devin red-shirted at Rutgers, accounting for the disparity in their draft years).
"It's going to be a unique opportunity," Jason said. "To grow up with a guy and we were always playing on the same team, so at this level to be able to face off, will be something special that we won't realize after the game, but probably years from now."
When football and politics collide
Ravens veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo made plenty of news this week, but not for anything that happened on the field.
Ayanbadejo is an ardent supporter of gay marriage, and was criticized by Maryland state lawmaker and minister Emmett C. Burns Jr., who sent a letter to team owner Steve Bisciotti demanding that he tell Ayanbadejo refrain from making any further statements on the subject. Ayanbadejo defended his right to speak his mind, and received support from the Ravens' organization.
Meanwhile, several players around the league as well as NFL Players Association president Dominique Foxworth, a former teammate with the Ravens, criticized Burns.
"I don't know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but his request was asinine," Foxworth told the Baltimore Sun. "I think Brendon's commendable. To step out into the fire and say something controversial, that's not something that comes lightly."
Need your glasses cleaned, sir?
Remember that shot NBC cameras caught of a guy sitting behind Jerry Jones and cleaning the Cowboys owner's eyeglasses before handing them back to him? Turns out it was Jones' son-in-law, Shy Anderson, who is taking plenty of ribbing over the moment captured on national television.
"Had you told me last week that we're going to be able to laugh and smile about this and it be something fun and notable to talk about, I would have taken that in a minute," Jones said on his Friday morning radio show. "I was about to die up there. About to swallow my tongue."
Jones said Anderson, the husband of Jones' daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, simply offered to clean the glasses.
"Listen, those things were fogged over, dirty, they had all kinds of prints on them," Jones said. "He just reached down there and said, 'Hand me those. You need some help.'. . . And, of course, that was Shy Anderson, my son-in-law, he's a vital part of our organization, trying to just help his father-in-law where he could see the ballgame. He reached down and said those things need cleaning. He's paying the price on it."