Finally, football not footballs.
After a long, tumultuous offseason for New England and the NFL, the focus can return to the actual game field Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
The NFL begins its year-long celebration of the Golden Anniversary of the Super Bowl with a march toward San Francisco that literally kicks off with a battle between two of the most dominant franchises in history.
Together the Patriots and Steelers have played in nine of the last 14 Super Bowls, with Tom Brady's team having won four of its six chances while Ben Roethlisberger took home a ring in two of his three tries.
Those two passers renew a rivalry Thursday night as the Patriots unveil the Super Bowl XLIX banner and officially turn the page On to 2015.
The Boston Globe's preview of tonight's game notes that the drama has finally shifted to the field for the Patriots. The Globe *has a few points on the pre-game ceremonies, including the advice that fans be in their seats by 8 p.m. The *Globe offers one view on the keys to victory against the Steelers as well as five questions facing the Patriots to open the season. The paper also notes that now in Miami on the practice squad, Jonas Gray was surprised that he's not in the starting lineup for the Patriots tonight.
The Boston Herald says the Patriots are the villains of the NFL, and the team is OK with that. Columnist Ron Borges breaks down how Bill Belichick became a villain to the league, while fellow* Herald* columnist looks at how Brady did the same. Owner Robert Kraft is not left out of the villain storyline for the Herald.
The Providence Journal says life isn't going to get any easier for Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. The ProJo also has an interesting story with one of Brady's close friend saying the quarterback will make opponents pay for what's gone on this offseason. The paper also notes the move to put center Bryan Stork on IR with a designation to return as well as the fact that football is now the full focus, thankfully, in Foxborough.
ESPNBoston.com notes that with Stork on IR, undrafted rookie David Andrews could be a key name to know early in the season for the Patriots. The site recaps a long offseason that has finally come to an end for New England as well as noting the impact of Nate Solder's contract extension.
CSNNE.com looks at why the Patriots may or may not repeat as Super Bowl champs.
WEEI.com wonders if a tough offseason might have lingering negative effects on Brady. The site also previews the Patriots matchup with the Steelers.
NFL.com ranks the top quarterbacks in the league and one of the passers from tonight's game locks down the No. 2 slot, just maybe not the one you'd expect. The site also has what to watch for in tonight's big opener.