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NFL kicks off preseason with American Bowl

(Aug. 2, 2005) -- It's a big quarterback weekend!

The NFL, with training camps in full swing, segues into its preseason schedule this weekend with two special games built around one special position -- quarterback.

In Tokyo and Canton, quarterbacks will be on display.

On Saturday in Tokyo, Japan (Live, ESPN2, 5 a.m. ET; Re-air, ESPN, 6 p.m. ET), the 40th American Bowl in an international series that began in 1986 will be played. When the Atlanta Falcons meet the Indianapolis Colts in the Tokyo Dome, it will be the 12th American Bowl to be played in that city, the most of any international city.

It also will be a meeting of two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL -- Michael Vick of the Falcons and Peyton Manning of the Colts. The two 2004 NFL All-Stars led their teams to division titles last year while posting record-breaking seasons.

Vick took the Falcons to an 11-5 record and to the NFC championship game while setting the NFL record for career 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback. His three such games during the season gave him five for his career, the most in NFL history.

Manning led the Colts to a 12-4 mark while breaking one of the top records in NFL annals -- touchdown passes in a season. His 49 TD passes bettered by one the total rang up 20 years earlier by a quarterback who will join others on center stage this weekend in Canton, Dan Marino.

For Colts head coach Tony Dungy, it will be a return to Japan. After a career as a quarterback at the University of Minnesota in which he finished as the Big Ten's fourth-leading player in total offense, he played in the Japan Bowl, an all-star game for college seniors.

"It's really a good deal (playing in Tokyo)," Dungy said. "Culturally, it will be great. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime situation for a lot of guys."

On Aug. 9 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET), the active players will take over Canton's Fawcett Stadium when the Chicago Bears take on the Miami Dolphins in the annual AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game.


The four teams involved in games this weekend will play five preseason contests this summer -- one more than the other 28 NFL clubs. And Atlanta Falcons head coach Jim Mora is glad. It gives the team, he says, more game situations in which to evaluate players. Mora is like all NFL coaches in stressing the value of preseason games. "We get to evaluate guys in a game atmosphere," he says about the American Bowl. "When you evaluate how a guy plays, it's got to be in a game."

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