Bill O'Brien: 'Historic night' awaits with return of 'America's game'

A regular season full of chances afresh and possibilities anew awaits, with just 100 yards to glory for every club anticipating what dreams may come upon the genesis of a new campaign.

While every autumn brings about novel aspirations for each and every NFL team ahead of that very first kickoff, a season unlike any before is upon us -- beginning with the reigning Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans on Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET on NBC).

This year finds shoulder-padded superstars beginning an unprecedented season that will take center stage amid a COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing plea for social equality and justice and amid a 2020 in which celebration has been arduous to come by.

Following an offseason with no preseason contests, myriad new COVID-19 protocols to abide by and having emerged from uncertainty and question marks aplenty, Texans coach Bill O'Brien realizes Thursday's game isn't just any old season opener.

"There's a little bit of definitely relief when you think about all that's been accomplished by every organization in this league and specifically to ours to get to this point," O'Brien told reporters Monday, via team transcript. "There was just so much work that had be done in such a short period of time and now you're here on game week. It's an exciting time. I think it's great for our league that – we have great people in this league. Great players, great coaches, great general managers, ownership – people that have really worked hard to get this off the ground and we're ready to go."

Beyond the relief of reaching the beginning of the 2020 season, there is also a sense that the return of football is not just welcomed, but perhaps needed among these hardest of times. A marquee matchup featuring the defending Patrick Mahomes-led champions against Deshaun Watson's Texans is certain to draw interest in a much-ballyhooed matchup, but the game itself and the dawn of a new season that it represents is all the more important during a dire time.

"I think it's going to be a historic night," O'Brien said. "I know the NBA's done a great job. Hockey's done a great job. Baseball's done a great job. Look, I think obviously we're very biased, but football we believe is America's game and I think this is the first game of just an absolutely unprecedented time, historic time. [It's the] 2020 season with two great quarterbacks and obviously, last year's Super Bowl winner and our football team, who's really excited to be a part of it. I think it will help the morale, like you talked about. I think it's going to be a very – it's a highly anticipated game and a lot of people are going to watch it. I think it's going to be an exciting night for everybody."

Uplifted morale and excitement beaming into American living rooms have been anticipated for quite some time.

And, of course, beyond the unrivaled nature of the time, the obstacles hurdled to arrive at Thursday and the unpredictable future that lies ahead, football is still football. Thursday will feature two of the fresh faces of the league in Mahomes and Watson, each of them having just signed lucrative extensions. It's a rematch from last season's AFC Divisional Round and beyond just the standout QBs, stars are in abundance on both squads on each side of the ball.

Houston and Watson drew first blood with a win in the regular season a year ago before Kansas City and Mahomes began their Super Bowl journey and their string of three consecutive comeback victories with a triumph in the playoffs.

It's most certainly a wonderful way to begin a most-anticipated 2020 season.

"I just think it's an exciting time in this league," O'Brien said. "[Watson and Mahomes] are just great players, very, very dynamic players. I think that it's always interesting how the schedules are made that this is the game that opens up the season, especially with what's gone on.

"What's gone on the last six months, it's unprecedented. Now you have this game with these two quarterbacks who have done so much early on in their careers, it's a great night for the league and it's a great night for football."

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