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Lions at Chiefs in Thursday Night Opener

The Chiefs will attempt to win their third Super Bowl in five years when they open the NFL’s 104th season tomorrow night (Thursday, September 7; 8:20 PM ET on NBC) as defending league champions against the promising NFC North Division Lions at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

The Lions finished strong last season and anticipate building on their first winning (9-8) record in five years. Head coach Dan Campbell is in his second season and has his team ready to win its first division title since 1993.

Campbell is one of nine head coaches this season who also are NFL alumni and played in regular season games during their careers. The total is the highest since 2019 when there also were nine former player-head coaches.

Demeco Ryans is the new head coach of the Texans who 17 years ago selected him as a linebacker on the second round of the 2006 Draft. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year and later played six seasons (2006-11) in Houston. He was traded to the Eagles in 2012 and played four seasons in Philadelphia before transitioning into coaching with the 49ers. This is his first head coaching position.

Veteran Sean Payton is back in the league as head coach of the Denver Broncos. The 59-year-old Payton retired from the league after nine seasons (2013-21) at the helm in New Orleans which included a Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Colts in 2009. Payton played quarterback for the Bears in 1987 and then started his coaching career at San Diego State the following year.

Frank Reich started the 2022 season as head coach of the Colts but was released after nine games last November. The Panthers lured him back into the league in January as the new head coach in Carolina. Reich played quarterback for four teams (including the Panthers in 1995) from 1985-98.

The five other player alums who are head coaches this season are Todd Bowles (Buccaneers), Doug Pederson (Jaguars), Kevin O’Connell (Vikings), Ron Rivera (Commanders), and Mike Vrabel (Titans). Bowles and O’Connell, who are in their second season with their respective teams, play each other this Sunday when the Bucs travel to Minnesota for the season opener.

The upcoming season concludes on February 11 with the playing of Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

We at NFL Alumni wish all 32 coaches, especially our nine NFL alums, much success in directing their teams through a safe and healthy campaign.