Preseason spotlight

The Green Bay Packers will host the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field on Aug. 26, the National Football League announced on Wednesday. The league released its 11-game national television preseason schedule, which includes the NFL coaching debut of Steve Spurrier, and Jon Gruden's first game as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.<p>

To allow as much time as possible for work on the $295 million renovation to Lambeau Field, the Packers will play their first two exhibition games on the road. Green Bay opens the preseason during the week of Aug. 8-12 at Philadelphia, then travels to play in Phoenix the week of Aug. 15-19 against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Packers return home to play against the Browns, then finish the exhibition season the week of Aug. 29-Sept. 1 at home against the Tennessee Titans.

The first nationally televised game of the 2002 preseason features two "firsts" – the first NFL game to be played in Osaka, Japan, and Spurrier's debut. On Saturday night, Aug. 3 on ESPN, the San Francisco 49ers will play the Washington Redskins in the 11th American Bowl in Japan, but the first in Osaka – a city of three million people on Osaka Bay in southern Japan that is the "sister city" of San Francisco and an American football hotbed.

The game will be the first as an NFL head coach for the Redskins' Spurrier, who in 12 years at the University of Florida compiled a 122-27-1 record and won the 1996 national championship.

Two nights later, on Monday, Aug. 5 on ABC, the Houston Texans will make their NFL debut in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio against the New York Giants. With the addition of the Texans as the NFL's 32nd team this year, the league has realigned into eight divisions of four teams each (see attached chart).

The Hall of Fame game also will mark the debut of John Madden as the new analyst on ABC's NFL Monday Night Football.

The following preseason weekend (August 8-12) will feature two national TV games on ESPN between 2001 playoff teams. On Thursday night, Aug. 8, the Buccaneers will host the Florida-rival Miami Dolphins in Gruden's debut as Tampa Bay's head coach. Gruden led the Oakland Raiders to division championships in each of the past two seasons.

On Monday night, the New York Jets will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the AFC Central Division-champion Steelers.

The next weekend features four nationally televised games, the most of any 2002 preseason weekend.

On Thursday night, Aug. 15 on ESPN, the AFC Western Division-champion Raiders will travel to the Tennessee Titans. On Friday night on FOX, the NFC Champion St. Louis Rams host the NFC Central titlist Chicago Bears. On Saturday night on CBS, one of the NFC Championship Game participants, the NFC East-champion Philadelphia Eagles, travels to the Super Bowl XXXVI-champion New England Patriots in the opening of their new stadium, CMGI Field.

The weekend will conclude on Monday night, Aug. 19 when San Francisco travels to Denver to play the Broncos on ABC.

The weekend of Aug. 22-26 will conclude the 2002 preseason national TV schedule with three games.

On Thursday night, Aug. 22 on CBS, the Rams will host the San Diego Chargers. On Friday, FOX will carry the Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia. And on Monday, Aug.26 on ABC, the Browns will play in Green Bay against the Packers.

The NFL also announced today that the opponents in four preseason games have been changed.

In Week 3 of the schedule (Aug. 22-26), the Seattle Seahawks will host the Kansas City Chiefs (instead of the Denver Broncos), and the Arizona Cardinals will host the Broncos (rather than the Chiefs).

In Week 4 (Aug. 29-Sept. 1), the Broncos will host the Seahawks (instead of the Cardinals), and the Oakland Raiders will welcome the Cardinals (rather than the Seahawks).

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