PHOENIX — Bears owner Virginia McCaskey’s direct involvement in the celebration of the NFL’s and her team’s 100th season is significant.
To former cornerback Charles Tillman, it will give everyone the opportunity to see her in the same way he does.
“When my daughter had her whole deal with the [heart] transplant, Mrs. McCaskey — very professional, very old-school, very traditional Catholic — took the time, hand-wrote a letter to me and my wife,” Tillman said Monday during the NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore.
“She just came across as compassionate and sympathized with what we were going through at the time. She offered her condolences and essentially said if there’s anything you need, please let me know. I fell in love. I was just honored.”
As part of the NFL’s centennial celebration, McCaskey, 96, is featured in a special NFL Films documentary, “A Lifetime of Sundays,” with other female owners: the Lions’ Martha Firestone Ford, the Chiefs’ Norma Hunt and the Steelers’ Patricia Rooney.
The NFL also officially announced that the Bears will host the Packers in the NFL Kickoff Game on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 7:20 p.m.
Traditionally, the NFL’s opening game has involved the previous season’s Super Bowl winner — in this case, the Patriots. Instead, the Patriots will host the first “Sunday Night Football” game. Their opponent wasn’t announced.
“[It’s] really an iconic matchup,” said Hans Schroeder, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media. “[It’s] a great way for our fans to really kick off what should be a seasonlong celebration of the 100th season.”
There will be a free fan festival on the day of the opener in Grant Park, including a concert, then a watch party during the game. More information on the festival will be announced later.
“It’s a venue that we know well from the draft there [in 2015 and 2016] — and it worked beautifully,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president for club business and league events, who added that long-term philanthropic projects also will involve other parts of Chicago.
In November, the Bears released their own celebration plans for their 100th season highlighted by a three-day convention featuring former and current players June 7-9 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
“With the year we had and the expectations of this team, it should be a blockbuster celebration,” team president Ted Phillips said recently. “What a great way not just to celebrate the past, but to look at the start of the next 100 years.”
“A Lifetime of Sundays” premiered at the league meetings. Details for its public release still need to be finalized.
“When [McCaskey] speaks, she’s heard,” Tillman said. “She’s a wealth of knowledge. I’m excited about ‘A Lifetime of Sundays’ to see the story of football through the lens of a female [owner]. When we think of and see NFL Films, it’s always from a male perspective. I’m excited for [everyone] to watch it. You’re going to like what you see.”