PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The NFL announced Tuesday that it will kick off its 2012 season with the New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys on the evening of Sept. 5.
But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn't believe his team will have to wait nearly that long to reap the benefits of playing on that platform.
Back in the spotlight
It's not the opener many expected, but "America's Team" against the defending champions is a familiar and fun way to kick off the season. More ...
"Why it is so exciting for us is we can use this, being on this stage, in the preparation of our offseason, as well as certainly preseason," Jones told NFL Network, as he was leaving The Breakers for dinner at the NFL Annual Meeting. "I was sitting with my coach (Jason Garrett) when the league told me this morning that they were going to announce it this afternoon, and we both got chills, saying, 'Man, we can use this to help inspire to work hard, because our guys are going to have to be ready to play the Giants on that stage.' It'll inspire us."
Giants owner John Mara added: "I'm sure our fans will be jacked up for it, and I'm sure they'll be ready to play, too. I think it was a good choice on the part of the league."
The NFL started its tradition of having the Super Bowl champion host its Kickoff game on a weeknight before Week 1 in 2004, and this will be the first time it's held on a Wednesday (so as not to conflict with the Democratic National Convention in its traditional Thursday slot), and just the second time that two division rivals will be pitted against one another.
"I don't really think that makes a difference," Mara said. "We knew it was going to be a tough opponent one way or another. Whether it was Dallas or Green Bay or somebody else, I don't think that really makes much of a difference. If you look at the last 10 or 12 games with them, they've usually been great, great games, going right down to the wire. And I'm sure this one will be no different."
"I remember that all too well," Mara said. "That was the game where we were going to close the gap. And Emmitt Smith, on the first play, went about 60 yards for a touchdown, and the gap got wider."
But just as the Giants owner could recall that night 17 years ago, he also wasn't afraid to accentuate the reason his team will be the league's host for the big night.
"Who cares who we're playing?" Mara said. "We're hosting the game. That's all that's important."