PHOENIX — The expected became official Monday at the NFL annual meeting at the Arizona Biltmore: The Bears will open the 2019 season against the Packers at Soldier Field.
It will be the NFL Kickoff Game on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 7:20 p.m. The Bears and NFL are celebrating their 100th seasons.
“Really an iconic matchup, two traditionally great, longtime NFL teams,” 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.”
Traditionally, the NFL’s opening game has involved the previous season’s Super Bowl winner — in this case, the Patriots.
But Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer, said the league had long planned to involve the Bears, one of the NFL’s founding franchises, because they’re celebrating their own centennial milestone.
Instead, the Patriots will host the first “Sunday Night Football” game. Their opponent wasn’t announced.
“You only get one 100th season,” Rolapp said. “How do you actually make that special?”
It’s the first time the Bears will open on Thursday night. They last hosted the Packers at night in 2010, when they won by a field goal on “Monday Night Football.”
“As an organization, we are thrilled to be kicking off the 100th season of football in the NFL,” chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “As a charter franchise, we cannot think of a better way to begin our centennial season than by hosting our longtime rival in prime time at Soldier Field.”
The Bears unveiled their plans for their centennial season in November:
* A Bears 100 Celebration Weekend: a three-day fan festival featuring former and current players June 7-9 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
* A Centennial Scrapbook: It will include interviews with owner Virginia McCaskey.
* A new charity initiative: The team will donate $1 million to charities selected by fans.
* Home-game honors: The Bears will highlight different decades of the franchise during home games this season.
“With the year we just had and the expectations of this team, I think 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. It’s going to be so fun. It’s going to be so exciting.”
The 2019 opener will be the first time the Bears have played season openers against their rivals in back-to-back years since 1980-81.
“Chicago is honored to host the NFL’s 2019 Kickoff Game and centennial celebration,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “George ‘Papa Bear’ Halas and the NFL’s co-founders probably didn’t imagine the federation they established 100 years ago in cities and towns across the Midwest would one day be the most successful professional sports league in the world, but that’s what their vision achieved.”