At long last, the Philadelphia Eagles kick off their 2020 NFL season against the awkwardly unnamed Washington Football Team. Though it’s the pandemic rather than the racial justice movement sweeping the nation that is responsible for a number of changes Eagles fans will notice.
For starters, there won’t be a single fan in the stands at FedEx Field due to local coronavirus restrictions. Referees, coaches, and team staff members will be masked up (though thankfully Eagles head coach Doug Peterson won’t be donning Andy Reid’s foggy face shield). And for the first time in 44 years, longtime Eagles radio announcer Merrill Reese and broadcast partner Mike Quick won’t be calling the game in person — they’ll be in a suite at the empty Lincoln Financial Field (something Reese is actually pleased with).
Fox Sports announcer Kevin Burkhardt, entering his eighth season calling the NFL on Fox, will be providing play-by-play for the game. The New Jersey native doesn’t exactly know what to expect from the booth setup, apart from plastic barriers put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. But after calling Major League Baseball games this season from the network’s Los Angeles studios, he relishes the opportunity to be on hand to call Sunday’s game, even if the stands are empty.
“I can tell you that it’s going to be great to be in the stadium to call the game and to see it with my own eyes as opposed to a TV,” Burkhardt told The Inquirer. “But it’s going to be weird. There’s no question about it."
Burkhardt will also be calling his first game alongside longtime analyst and former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowler Daryl “Moose” Johnston. While Burkhardt said it usually takes a few games to get into a rhythm with a new booth mate, he’s more concerned about not letting the lack of fans alter his approach to calling the game.
“I’m a guy who definitely likes to lay out, and I definitely like to listen to the crowd and have that be a part of what we’re doing,” Burkhardt said. “So on a big third and 10, when normally you would just shut up and let the director cut pictures and let the fans at home feel what it’s like to be there, I hope I don’t have the urge to talk more ... I think that’ll be a challenge for me and everybody else that does this.”
Another familiar face to Eagles fans will be longtime Fox Sports sideline reporter Pam Oliver, entering her 26th NFL season. But due to COVID-19 precautions, Oliver will have to do her reporting from the first row behind both benches, which the NFL is calling the “operational zone” and Fox Sports staffers have affectionately nicknamed “The Moat.”
One final hurdle for Burkhardt will be getting through the game without referring to Washington by its former team name, which was finally jettisoned in July following years of criticism.
“I’m sure it’ll be tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if I say it a couple of times. But when you’ve been doing it for your entire life, it’ll be a challenge,” Burkhardt said. “I’ve tried to eliminate it from my daily conversations, so we’ll see if that works.”
Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream the Eagles' season opener:
Eagles-Washington is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. on Fox29 in Philadelphia. It will air on Fox throughout the Northeast from North Carolina to Vermont, as well as in Oklahoma and Texas, so Cowboys fans can hate-watch the Eagles.
Cable subscribers can also stream the game on the Fox Sports app and on FoxSports.com. In-market fans without a cable subscription can stream it for free on the Yahoo! Sports app, the Eagles app, and on PhiladelphiaEagles.com.
The game will also be available on a host of skinny bundles, including fuboTV, which is offering a free seven-day trial. Fox is also available on YouTubeTV, Hulu + Live TV, and AT&T Now.
Pregame coverage on Fox begins at 10 a.m. with Fox 29 Gameday Live at 10 a.m., featuring Bill Anderson, Garry Cobb, Kristen Rodgers, and Howard Eskin. The network’s national pre-pregame show, Fox NFL Kickoff, will air at 11 a.m., hosted by Charissa Thompson with analysts Tony Gonzalez, Michael Vick, Dave Wannstedt, Peter Schrager, and Colin Cowherd. Fox NFL Sunday follows at noon, hosted by Terry Bradshaw and Curt Menefee alongside analysts Howie Long, Michael Strahan, and Jimmy Johnson, who will contribute to the broadcast remotely.
Over on NBC Sports Philadelphia, Eagles Pregame Live, hosted by Michael Barkann and featuring Seth Joyner, Ray Didinger and Barrett Brooks, will air live at 11 a.m. Eagles Postgame Live will air immediately following the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ due to the Phillies-Marlins doubleheader. Birds Outsiders, which this year will be hosted by Roy Burton and 94.1 WIP host Joe Giglio, airs immediately after the postgame show.
As far as other local network pregame shows go, CBS3 will air CBS3 Sunday Kickoff at 11:30 a.m. (featuring Don Bell and Pat Gallen). NBC10 will air Eagles Gameday Kickoff at 9:30 a.m. (hosted by Danny Pommells), followed by Eagles GamePlan at 10 a.m. (featuring John Clark, Ike Reese, and Mike Quick).