The NFL kicks off its "Salute to Service" campaign this week, with Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach playing a major role.
The league will donate $100 for each point scored to the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO, and Wounded Warrior Project for a total of $300 per point. Last year, the first year of the campaign, the NFL donated nearly $800,000.
Each team throughout November will designate one home game to honor the military. Fans will notice players wearing helmet decals honoring the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard. Camouflage ribbon footballs will be used, as will camouflage goal post wraps, and pylons with camouflage ribbon decals. Players will wear newly designed hats, sweat shirts, gloves and captains patches, and will use camouflage towels on the sidelines. Coaches and sideline personnel will also have camouflage hats, plus camouflage ribbon pins for coaches and team executives.
Footballs, equipment and uniforms used in the games will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the league's three military nonprofit partners.
USAA, which provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 9.6 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families, will present a Salute to Service Award at the end of the season. Last year's winner was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.
"Football and the military have always had a special connection, from the great players and games at the U.S. Service Academies to the lift it provides to our thousands of troops around the globe who are able to watch every week," says Staubach, who won the 1963 Heisman Trophy at Navy before leading the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles. "This weekend, USAA will be staging powerful gestures of military appreciation at select NFL games across the country, as fans will show their military appreciation with a special 'Thank You' message. One of the games is in New Orleans, and I will have the chance to be there and also meet with, and offer thanks to, military members."
At that game, fans will take part in a card stunt thanking military members and veterans for their service.
UNION BOWL: Several Pro Football Hall of Fame members will coach in the NFL Players Association's all-star game on Jan. 18.
Working as assistants to American team head coach Dennis Green will be defensive tackles coach John Randle and defensive backs coach Darrell Green.
Helping National team coach Dick Vermeil will be wide receivers coach Charlie Joiner.
Also working as assistants for Green will be former NFL standouts Kevin Mawae (offensive line) and Andre Reed (inside receivers). Vermeil can call on Will Shields (offensive line) and Bill Bradley (defensive backs).
COMING ATTRACTIONS: NBC naturally promotes its Sunday night matchups regardless of who will be on the field. Over the next three weeks, though, the quality and significance of the games is noteworthy.
This week, NFC East leader Dallas — yeah, we know, the Cowboys are only 5-4 in the league's weakest division — visit NFC South leader New Orleans (6-2). Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a habit of doing big things in prime time.
On Nov. 17, the fight for first place in the strong AFC West pits Kansas City (9-0) at Denver (7-1 and at San Diego this weekend. The Chiefs are guaranteed to still be undefeated for the trip to the Mile High City because they have a bye this week.
The overall record of the teams through Week 9 is 41-10, the best in seven years for three successive Sunday night games.
SHIN GUARD: New York Giants running back Andre Brown is going to wear a soccer-type shin guard on his left leg for the rest of his career to protect a fibula broken twice in nine months.
Brown, who broke the leg in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots, is returning to action this weekend against the Oakland Raiders. The much-traveled five-year veteran spent the past 10 weeks on recallable injured reserve.
When asked about the device, Brown didn't know whether to call it a fibula guard or a tibia guard since he could not remember which bone he broke.
"Yeah, they built a little carbon fiber plate for me," he said. "They said I would probably be wearing that for the rest of my career. It is what it is."
Brown, who had eight touchdowns in 10 games last season in clearly his best NFL season, then reached into his locker, grabbed the white guard with No. 35 on it and showed it off.
"I don't even feel it on my leg," he said. "It's basically part of my leg. That's it."
HUNT'S TIME: The Bengals figured it would take defensive end Margus Hunt a while to figure out how the NFL works. The break-in time is about finished.
The Bengals need help on the line with end Robert Geathers and now tackle Geno Atkins out for the rest of the season with injuries. Hunt was inactive for six of the first seven games, but has played 50 plays on defense and 20 on special teams in the last two games.
The 6-foot-8, 280-pound track star is still a work in progress.
"This is more than about having strength," Hunt said. "You have to be able to get off blocks and get to the ball. Those are things I have to learn still and get better at. You have to learn to use (strength) and not just have it."
The Estonian was an international track star with a scholarship at Southern Methodist when the school ended its track program and Hunt decided to take up football for the first time. He became an expert special teams player with a knack for blocking kicks. He also used his speed and size to get after the quarterback.
The Bengals are not only using him as an end, but have started moving him inside the line on passing downs, a new and challenging experience for Hunt.
"It's tough because the entire time I've been learning defensive end stuff," he said. "Most of the stuff goes with every position you play, but still it's a lot tougher inside because the guards are a lot shorter, so I have to really focus on staying low and getting off the blocks."
It looks like he'll get a lot of time to learn on the field.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Tom Canavan and Joe Kay contributed to this story.