Happy birthday, NFL—you don't look a day over 99.
Expect to hear a lot of lines like that one this fall, because the NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Unfortunately, this will not trigger a flood of throwback uniforms like the ones the league rolled out for its 75th anniversary in 1994. (Blame the one-shell rule, and maybe just a lack of imagination.) This year's uniforms will still provide plenty of reminders about the league's centennial though, mainly due to the omnipresent NFL 100 logo.
For starters, every team but the Bears (who are celebrating their own centennial—more on that in a minute) will be wearing the NFL 100 mark at the base of their jersey collars, and all 32 teams will have it on the back of their helmets. In both cases, the anniversary logo will be replacing the standard NFL shield, which has previously appeared in those spots:
The anniversary mark will also appear on the officials' uniforms, on the new game balls, on the turf, on the players' waistband towels, and probably lots of other places:
It wouldn't be surprising for the league to have a few other centennial-related surprises in store, but the lack of a league-wide throwback program this season seems like a missed opportunity. Too bad.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other uni-related developments to watch for this year. With the season set to kick off on Thursday night, here's our annual team-by-team rundown of what you can expect to see on the gridiron.
The Cowboys' rarely seen blue jerseys will be a lot less rare in 2019. Dallas will be wearing blue for six of its eight road games and with white pants, instead of the usual silver, for two home games. The total of eight blue-clad games is believed to be the highest single-season total in since the Cowboys adopted their silver helmets and silver pants in 1964. You can see the team's 2019 game-by-game uniform schedule (something all teams should publish but very few do) here.
Meanwhile, here's an oddity: Late in the 2017 season, the NFL announced that past winners of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award would be able to wear a jersey patch for the rest of their careers (you know, the patch that looks like Darth Vader). One such past winner was Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who won the award in 2012, so the patch was added to his jersey for the last few weeks of the 2017 season. Witten then left the NFL to go into broadcasting, but this year he's come out of retirement and rejoined the Cowboys, so he gets to reclaim his Payton patch, making him the first player to wear the patch in non-consecutive seasons.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Nothing new this season for the Giants, but it's worth noting that rookie quarterback Daniel Jones appears to like his thigh pads on the small side:
Also of note: Linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree has changed his uni number from 52 to 47, in part because he felt he had “done all I could do in the number 52.” Further info here.
Meanwhile, here’s Big Blue’s game-by-game jersey schedule for the coming season:
Nothing new this season for the Eagles, although many fans wish the team would swap out its midnight green tone and bring back the old Kelly green. There's a good discussion of that issue here.
Does it look a bit incongruous to see rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins wearing No. 7 (which he also wore at Ohio State)? If so, that's because he's the first Washington player to wear that number since Joe Theismann in 1985! The number was never officially retired but had been kept out of circulation since Theismann's retirement. Theismann, however, has given his blessing to Haskins wearing the number.
Lots of uni-related developments on tap this year for the Bears, who are celebrating their own franchise centennial along with the league's. One thing at a time:
• The Bears are the only team not wearing the NFL 100 logo on their collars this season (although they are wearing it on the back of their helmets, like every other team). Instead, Chicago is wearing the standard NFL shield, along with a team centennial chest patch:
• If you like stripes, you'll love the Bears' new 1936 throwback, which they'll wear on Sept. 29 against the Vikings and Dec. 5 against the Cowboys (additional info here):
In case you're wondering, the helmet doesn't violate the league's one-shell rule because it's the same dark-navy helmet shell the Bears always use. They're simply removing their usual logo decals and replacing them with striping tape.
• Speaking of throwback headwear, the Bears will wear a 1960s-style helmet—that means a white "C" logo and a gray facemask—on Nov. 24 against the Giants. Again, these will be the same helmet shells they usually wear, but with the side decals and masks swapped out:
• The Bears will also wear their orange alternate jerseys on Oct. 27 against the Chargers:
• The Bears 100 mark, in addition to appearing on the uniforms, will be featured as this season's midfield logo at Soldier Field:
• Uniforms drawn from throughout Bears history will be showcased on a series of bobbleheads that the team is giving away this season. You can see the full assortment by scrolling through this Twitter thread.
• And in one final touch to mark a century of Bears football, the team is set to unveil new statues of Walter Payton and George Halas outside Soldier Field.
No announced changes for the Lions. But it's worth noting that they'll continue to wear their memorial sleeve initials for William Clay Ford—the sixth consecutive season they've uni-memorialized him in some manner (the initials were originally worn on a chest patch before moving to the sleeve). This is one of four perma-memorials that can be found on NFL uniforms. The others are the Chiefs' Lamar Hunt chest patch (which has been worn since 2007); the Raiders' helmet decal for Al Davis (2011); and the granddaddy of all perma-memorials, the Bears' sleeve initials for George Halas (1984).
GREEN BAY PACKERS
No photo, but the Packers are adding a memorial helmet decal for Bart Starr, who died earlier this year. The decal wasn't worn during the preseason but will be added now that the regular season is starting.
In addition, the Packers will wear their navy-and-gold throwback uniforms on Sept. 22 against the Broncos (additional info here):
Also, it's worth noting that Green Bay is now the only NFL team still using the old Reebok uniform template. When Nike took over the NFL's uniform contract in 2012, a handful of teams—the Packers, Panthers, and Falcons—opted to have Nike reproduce the tailoring and fabric template they'd already been wearing. The other two teams have now switched to more newfangled Nike templates, leaving the Packers as the last remaining team to stick with the old Reebok style.
Fans have been complaining for years that the Vikings' helmet and jerseys colors don't match, especially when viewed on TV. So the team has tweaked the helmet's shade of purple to better match the jersey color:
The Falcons will be wearing their black throwback uniforms three times this season—on Sept. 29 against the Titans, Oct. 27 against the Seahawks, and on Thanksgiving Day against the Saints. You can see their entire uniform schedule for the coming season here.
To the untrained eye, the Panthers will look pretty much the same this season as they always have. But to the seasoned uni aesthete, they've made a slew of changes. Here's what to look for:
• The Panthers were among the last two teams that had stuck with the old Reebok-style tailoring and fabric even after Nike took over the league's uniform contract in 2012 (the other is Green Bay), but now they've finally upgraded to Nike's latest template and fabrication. The most visible aspect of this is that most players' shoulder stripes, which had been truncated, now wrap all the way underneath the sleeve. The black piping on the stripes is narrower as well:
• The TV numbers—the numbers on a jersey's shoulders or sleeves that help TV broadcasters and spotters identify players who aren't facing directly toward or away from the camera—have gotten smaller:
• As you may have noticed from those last two tweets, the Panthers have a new 25th-season patch. It'll probably look fine on their black and blue jerseys (neither of which they wore during the preseason), but they really should have come up with a different version of it for the white jersey, because the white patch design blends in too much with the white background.
• The team's sleeve logo, which had previously been screen-printed, is now embroidered:
• Moving down the pants, the team logo on the hip has been eliminated, and the side striping no longer comes to a hard point:
Meanwhile, you can see the Panthers' game-by-game jersey schedule here.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Nothing new this year out of New Orleans, but it's worth noting that the Saints are one of three NFL teams—the others are Kansas City and Washington—that steadfastly refuse to put any sort of logo or graphic on their nose bumpers, allowing a prime bit of camera-facing real estate to remain blank:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Nothing new this year for the Bucs (sigh), but they get points for posting their full uniform schedule for the coming season:
If ever there was a team that needed an overhaul, it's this one. The sleeves are a disaster, the pants are even worse, the gray facemask makes no sense, and the black alternate uni is an embarrassment. Unfortunately, none of that will be changing this season, but let's hope there's something more positive to report next season.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams will wear their royal-and-yellow throwbacks, which they rode all the way to the Super Bowl last season, five times this year. They'll also wear their solid-yellow Color Rush design once, on Nov. 25 against the Ravens. Here's their full uniform schedule:
Expect the Rams to get a new uni set next season, when their new stadium is finally set to open.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers’ white 1994 throwback design, which made its on-field debut last season, will return in 2019. The Niners will wear it on Oct. 27 against the Panthers (additional info here):
No announced changes or uniform news, but it's worth noting that placekicker Sebastian Janikowski has retired, which means we won't get to reprise the entertaining sight of him wearing the Seahawks' neon-green Color Rush uniforms.
The Bills have unveiled a new 60th-season logo, but it will be used only for marketing and promotional purposes, not as a uniform patch or decal.
The Dolphins are adding a memorial helmet decal for former player Nick Buoniconti, who died earlier this year. The decal was not worn during the preseason but will be added now that the regular season is starting (additional info here):
Also: That noise you hear in the background whenever the Dolphins wear their gorgeous aqua throwbacks is the sound of a jillion NFL fans saying, "They should go back to these as their regular look!" Expect to hear that noise again on Dec. 1, when the Dolphins will be wearing the aqua throwbacks against the Eagles. And there will likely be a similar noise when Miami debuts a new white throwback design, which will be worn on Sept. 15 against the Patriots and on Oct. 28 against the Steelers:
Interestingly, one sharp-eyed fan has noticed that the helmet logo on the new throwback appears to be a hybrid design that sort of splits the difference between two previous versions of the team's old sunburst logo:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Pats have made a habit of wearing a championship patch for the season-opening game after winning a Super Bowl title, and this year will be no exception:
They'll wear that patch on Sunday night against the Steelers.
NEW YORK JETS
The biggest uni change of the year comes out of New York, where the Jets have received a full makeover. Your friendly uniform columnist attended the unveiling of this new set back in April and provided a detailed assessment (plus some follow-up thoughts). The short version, at least here at Uni Watch HQ, is that the helmet looks great but the rest of the uniform is a downgrade.
Meanwhile, here's an odd detail: The Jets are still using the number style from their old, now-outdated jerseys on their locker nameplates. Wouldn't you expect them to change those to match the new number font?
Nothing new this year for the Ravens, but here's a thought: People seem to like the Ravens’ black alternate uniforms, so why not make those the team’s primary look? Ravens are black in real life, after all.
The Bengals have always been good about posting their game-by-game jersey schedule, and this year is no exception (additional info here):
Meanwhile, as you're counting down the minutes until the start of the season, you can check out the results of our recent Bengals team-redesign challenge.
You may have noticed that the Browns' helmets didn't have their usual center striping during the team's four preseason games. That's because, for the second year in a row, the team decided to have the players "earn their stripes" by making the final roster cut. The stripes will be added for the regular season opener this Sunday.
Speaking of the regular season, the Browns' Color Rush uniforms are more popular with fans than the team's standard brown design, so the team has asked the NFL for permission to wear the Color Rush uni more frequently this season than the maximum of three times that is normally be allowed. There's been no word on whether the league will approve that request, but the Browns have been teasing an announcement for this Wednesday, and there’s lots of speculation that it will be related to the Color Rush situation.
While you're waiting for that scenario to play out, here's a very entertaining (but paywalled) article about Browns GM John Dorsey's signature gray sweater.
Meanwhile, looking ahead, the Browns will have new uniforms next season. And not a moment too soon.
The Steelers, much like the Browns, have a preseason uni quirk: They don't wear their front helmet numbers (which always leads to a bit of confusion among fans who mistakenly think it's a full-time change instead of an annual rite of August). You can be assured that the numbers will be added now that the regular season is starting:
Speaking of helmet graphics, the Steelers have added a "DD" memorial decal for receivers coach Darryl Drake, who died last month (additional info here):
In addition, the Steelers will once again wear their Color Rush and 1970s throwback uniforms this season. The Color Rush design will be worn on Oct. 28 against the Dolphins, while the throwbacks will be showcased on Nov. 10 against the Rams (additional info here):
Also: One of the key behind-the-scenes people in Steelers uniform history is no longer with the team, as longtime equipment manager Rodgers Freyvogel has retired.
Meanwhile, here's something to keep an eye on: Kraft Heinz is not expected to renew its naming rights deal on Heinz field when it expires after the 2021 season, so the stadium may be getting a new name in 2022.
The Texans' "RCM" memorial logo for owner Bob McNair, which they began wearing on their jerseys and helmets after McNair's death late last year, is being retained this season:
In addition, the Texans have made a small addition to their jerseys, where the team's primary logo will now appear on the rear collar, just above the nameplate. Given the way NFL jerseys tend to pucker and wrinkle in this area, most fans probably won't even notice the change (additional info here):
Also: As usual, the Texans will wear solid-white for their home opener, which this year will be on Sept. 15 against the Jags. They'll also wear solid-blue on Dec. 1 against the Pats and trot out their red alternates on Dec. 8 against the Broncos.
No announced changes or uniform news out of Indy, but here’s a little something to consider: The Colts are among the last three teams in the league that still wear Nike’s annoying Flywire jersey collar. The other two are the Browns and Bucs, who both have complicated jersey designs that might be hard to replicate in one of the newer templates. But the Colts? Come on—their jersey design is simplicity itself. Upgrade them to a new template already!
The Jags have added a 25th-season jersey patch, which takes the place of their usual jaguar-head logo patch:
Fans and broadcasters noticed last season that the numbers on the Titans' light-blue jerseys were difficult to read. It was so bad that the team actually stopped wearing the blue design after Week 3. That issue has been addressed this season by making the numerals thicker (additional info here):
Also: The Titans will honor two of their franchise's greatest players by retiring Steve McNair's No. 9 and Eddie George's No. 27 as part of the festivities as this year's home opener on Sept. 15.
Finally, in what might be the first lectern-related news item in Uni Watch history, the Titans also have a new logo-emblazoned press conference podium:
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died over the summer, so the team is honoring him with a "Mr. B" memorial helmet decal. The memorial design is also being worn by the team's cheerleaders on their boots:
The Broncos will wear their blue alternate jerseys twice this season—Oct. 13 against the Titans and Dec. 1 against the Chargers—and their Color Rush uniform on Dec. 22 against the Lions. You can see Denver’s entire game-by-game uni schedule here.
Also: Like many of the original AFL franchises, the Broncos have a new 60th-season logo, which they'll be using in various marketing contexts. No plans for it to appear as a jersey patch or helmet decal, however.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs are marking six decades of existence with a new 60th-season logo. Although it's based on the team's Lamar Hunt perma-memorial patch and could easily replace that patch for this season, the plan for now is for it to be used only for marketing and communications purposes, not as an addition to the uniform (additional info here):
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The best news of the year comes out of L.A., where the Chargers' powder blue alternate uni—pretty much everyone's favorite NFL look—has been re-designated as the team's primary colored uniform. So instead of seeing this design once or twice a year, we'll be seeing it all season long, in rotation with Chargers' white uni (additional info here):
Of course, fans in San Diego were clamoring for this move for many years, to no avail. So it probably stings a bit for those fans to see the powder blues' ascendency now that the team has decamped for L.A.—ouch.
Also of note: Longtime Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is now with the Chargers, and he's brought along his Walter Payton Man of the Year patch (which he gets to keep wearing through the end of his career after winning the honor in 2014). He appears to be the first player to wear the patch for two different teams.
Like many of the other original AFL franchises, the Raiders have a new 60th-season logo. Unlike those other teams, however, the Raiders are wearing their logo as a jersey patch. They didn't wear it during the preseason but will add it now that the regular season is starting (additional info here):
Meanwhile, unless you've been hiding under a very large rock, you probably know that Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown has been engaged in some major soap operatics regarding his helmet. This saga seems to have new twists and turns nearly every day, but the bottom line is this: Brown can't wear his old helmet model because it's no longer league-approved, so he'll wear a new model instead, the end.
• Antonio Brown isn't the only player trading in an outdated helmet this season. More than 30 other players, including superstar quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, had to trade up for new helmet models this season. That's all based on the latest helmet safety ratings, which you can see here.
• You may have noticed that some of the preseason photos embedded in this article show players wearing the Oakley logo on the tabs of their visor shields. That's new for this season—visor tabs were previously clear or had team logos, but a new marketing deal between the NFL and Oakley will result in the company's stylized "O" logo appearing on the tabs going forward.
An additional wrinkle here is that Oakley's Prizm visor, which is designed to increase a player's visual acuity and features a light lavender tint, will now be permitted on the field. In the past, tinted visors were only permitted only for players who had a medical exemption (lots of additional info here):
• In theory, NFL uniform rules dating back more than half a century have mandated that players' socks be white from the ankle to mid-shin and a team color or stripe pattern from mid-shin to the point where they meet the pants. In practice, while some players still adhere to these guidelines, most of them do not. In fact, many players in recent years haven't even worn full-length socks, opting instead for some combination of tights, leggings, calf sleeves, white crew socks, and white tape, often in a half-hearted attempt to mimic a white-bottomed look that sorta-kinda complied with the guidelines.
After years of fruitlessly trying to enforce the rule, the NFL has finally changed it. New wording in the rulebook now allows for teams to wear a "solid color stocking" instead of the old format, which seems like a much simpler, lower-maintenance approach. At least one team, the Browns, took full advantage of this during the preseason:
• Expect to see several long-running uni-themed promotions again this year, including rainbow-patterned captaincy patches and other multi-colored accessories for cancer awareness in October; camouflage accessories for military appreciation in November; and custom-painted cleats to support charitable initiatives in early December.
And there you have it. Did we miss anything? Yeah, probably. If you know of any NFL uni updates that weren't covered here, you know what to do. Thanks.
Paul Lukas, a lifelong 49ers fan, is hoping for a better season than last year. You can read more of his uniform writing on his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for his mailing list so you won't miss any of his SI columns. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.