Eagles find it's not easy being green

Matt Barkley

There are lots of new NFL uniform elements that you'll be seeing on the field this season, and we'll get to them in a minute. But let's start with something you won't be seeing, at least early in the season: the Philadelphia Eagles' green jerseys. And why won't you be seeing them? Because, incredibly, Nike won't have them ready in time for the start of the season.

First, some quick background: When Nike took over for Reebok as the NFL's uniform supplier in 2012, most teams switched to Nike's "Elite 51" jersey template -- the one with the weird-looking collar and all the pieced-together fabric panels, made from high-tech performance textiles. But a few teams chose to stay with Reebok's old tailoring template and fabric, even though the jerseys were now being made by Nike. One of those teams was the Eagles. The explanation at the time was that Nike had "color matching issues" with the Eagles' shade of midnight green.

This season, though, the Eagles are upgrading to the Elite 51 uniforms. The changes have been easy to see in the team's white and black jerseys -- but where are the green jerseys? The answer came when the Eagles quietly issued this announcement on Aug. 15: "The Eagles will use their white and black jerseys throughout the early portion of the season. ... The Midnight Green jerseys require extra time to produce since it is a custom color and will not debut until later in the 2014 season."

Wow! When's the last time a top-level pro team's uniforms weren't ready for the start of the season? If it's not unprecedented, it certainly hasn't happened in recent memory.

This raises a lot of questions. For example, Nike deals with custom colors all the time -- it's a big part of its business, in fact -- so what's so challenging about the Eagles' shade of green? Why has it taken more than two years to get the color right? When did Nike become aware that the green jerseys wouldn't be ready in time for the start of the season, and when were the Eagles informed of this? When will the green jerseys be ready? Why can't the Eagles just wear the older green jerseys until the new ones are ready? Will the Eagles wear their black alternate jerseys for home games early in the season, or will they wear white at home? What about the green trim on the black and white jerseys -- are those elements appearing in the proper shade of green, or is Nike having trouble with them as well? And what are the implications of all this for the green jerseys that fans buy at retail?

Uni Watch recently posed those very questions to the Eagles and to Nike. Nike did not respond; an Eagles spokesman would only say, "We typically wear white jerseys at home early in the season anyway." (That's a bit of a stretch, actually: The Eagles wore white at home once in 2013, once in 2012 and not at all in 2011.) In any case, this episode is shaping up as an embarrassment for everyone involved.

So that covers the Eagles. But what about all the other clubs? With the season set to kick off next week, here's our annual team-by-team roundup of what you can expect to see on the field (teams with no changes on tap aren't listed):

• The Bears will be wearing their "Monsters of the Midway" throwbacks twice this year -- Sept. 28 against the Packers and Nov. 23 against the Buccaneers.

 

• The Bills have added a gray "RCW" memorial patch for longtime owner Ralph Wilson, who passed away back in March. Also: At least four Bills players -- running back C.J. Spiller, cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins -- have been wearing what appears to be camouflage-patterned thigh pads that show through their pants during the preseason. Is this the next frontier of player accessorization? Stay tuned.

• The Broncos will wear their blue alternate jerseys on Oct. 19 against the 49ers.

• No new uniforms this season for the Browns, although they'll likely have a new uni set next season (which has many fans worried). For now, they have a new end zone design. Look closely at the new version and you can see that they've added a little shout-out to the Dawg Pound behind the goalposts.

• Only one team has an all-new uni set this season: the Buccaneers. If you compare last year to this year, you can see the main differences: The new helmet logo is way too big, the digital clock uni numbers are a joke, the chrome facemask is pretty cool, and everything else is a wash. There's a much more in-depth Uni Watch analysis available here, and you can see preseason game photos here and here. And as you can see in all of those photos, the Bucs are wearing an "MG" memorial patch for former owner Malcolm Glazer, who passed away in May.

• No throwbacks or black alternates this season for the Falcons, at least according to their jersey schedule.

• The 49ers have a fancy new stadium this season. They'll be putting this inaugural season logo on lots of merchandise but will not be wearing it on their uniform. Also: Remember the fuss over the winter regarding coach Jim Harbaugh's $8 Wal-Mart pleated khakis? Harbaugh and his wife parlayed that into an endorsement deal with Levi's Dockers (a natural pairing, given that Levi's holds the naming rights to the Niners' new stadium). Judging by the preseason, however, the new pants deal hasn't had much of an effect on Harbaugh's basic look. And speaking of Harbaugh, why is he still wearing a Super Bowl XLVII cap? Come on, dude, that was two seasons ago!

• The Giants will be adding a 90th season patch. (As per team custom, they didn't wear it during the preseason.) Also: The Jints will be wearing their alternate white pants for two home games -- Nov. 3 against the Colts and Nov. 16 against the 49ers. Also-also: Cornerback Charles James II and rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are both wearing generational suffixes on their nameplates this season.

• The Jaguars are commemorating their 20th season with a jersey patch.

• The Lions will be adding a memorial patch for owner William Clay Ford Sr., who died back in March. The blue and silver "twin towers" in the center of the patch are a shout-out to the team's primary logo from the 1960s. Meanwhile: Wide receiver Golden Tate III didn't wear a Roman numeral on his nameplate when he was with the Seahawks, but he's added one now that he's with the Lions.

• This is the 20th season for the Panthers, and they're marking the occasion with a jersey patch and a logo on the field. Meanwhile, here's the team's home jersey schedule for the coming year. As you can see, the blue alternates are slated to be worn on Sept. 21 against the Steelers.

• This isn't something you'll see on game day, but the Patriots have changed the number font on their practice jerseys to match the font on their game jerseys.

• The Rams will wear their "Greatest Show on Turf" throwbacks on Oct. 15 against the 49ers. Some fans would like to see the team go back to that design as its primary uniform, and team executive Kevin Demoff has hinted that it could happen down the line. He also indicated that the team's old blue and white look will likely become the team's long-term throwback option.

• Nothing new this season for the Ravens (unless you count the new sponsor on their practice jerseys), but it's worth noting that veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, now with Baltimore, has added "Sr." to the back of his jersey.

• Lots of uni-related developments this year for the Steelers. First, they'll be wearing a simple "CHN" memorial helmet decal for former coach Chuck Noll. Second, they'll be wearing a patch to mark the 40th anniversary of their first Super Bowl championship team on Nov. 30 against the Saints (further details here). Third, they'll be wearing their bumblebee throwbacks on Oct. 26 against the Colts. And finally, you may have noticed that the Steelers' familiar front helmet numbers have been missing during the preseason. Don't worry -- that's a longstanding Steelers preseason ritual. The numbers will be restored to the helmets when the regular season starts.

• The Texans will wear solid white for their home opener against Washington on Sept. 7 and will wear their red alternate jerseys on Nov. 2 against the Eagles. You can see their full home jersey schedule here.

• The Titans will wear their navy alternate jerseys on Oct. 26 against the Texans. And in the "It's all about the little details" department, quarterback Jake Locker appears to be switching to loose-fitting sleeves this year.

• Nothing new on tap for Washington, but there's a uni-related controversy brewing for the team's game in Minnesota against the Vikings on Nov. 2. The game will be played at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, and the university has asked that Washington's controversial team name be scrubbed from the proceedings -- which, among other things, would require a uniform change. Further details here.

Additional Notes

• The officiating crews got a new uni number font last season, but some officials were still wearing the old font in 2013, and at least one of them -- head linesman George Hayward -- has still been wearing the old font in the current preseason. Come on, guys, get it together!

• This is shaping up as an important transitional year for nose bumpers -- the little white panels at the base of each helmet's forehead area. The protocol for the past two dozen years has been simple: Nose bumpers on helmets made by Riddell -- the brand worn by about 70 percent of the league's players -- have carried the Riddell logo, while the bumpers of other helmet brands have either featured a team logo or, in a few cases, been left blank. But Riddell's endorsement deal with the league was not renewed for 2014, and now no manufacturer's marks will be allowed on any helmets, so teams are coming up with new designs to replace those Riddell logos. Titans players, for example, are now wearing the team's secondary logo. And raised or 3-D bumper graphics -- first worn in 2006 by the Giants and subsequently by a few other teams -- are suddenly a hot commodity for many teams, including the Jags, Dolphins, Raiders, Chargers, Jets, Steelers, Ravens and Niners. In addition, two teams simply went with blank bumpers for the preseason: the Chiefs and Broncos. Will they add a logo to their bumpers when the regular season starts? We'll have to wait and see.

• All teams will once again support breast cancer awareness by wearing pink accessories and pink ribbon helmet decals for games in October.

• Teams will also be wearing camouflage ribbon helmet decals to support the military during Weeks 10, 11 and 12.

• Expect to see a growing number of players wearing the latest thing in anti-concussion technology, the new Riddell SpeedFlex helmet, which is easily identifiable by its cut-out flex panel on the crown. Some teams are running their center striping tape right over the cut-out, while others are cutting the tape as it crosses the cut-out. You can learn a lot more about the SpeedFlex here.

• The NFL is cracking down on so-called shredder facemasks, although some players are exempt from the ban.

• You may have noticed that all players have been wearing a USA Football "Heads Up" helmet decal during the preseason. That will be removed once the regular season starts.

• A little-noted change to every stadium this year: The goalposts are five feet taller!

• You won't be able to see it, but players will be wearing tracking devices in their shoulder pads this season, a move that's designed to create new statistic metrics. And head impact sensors could be coming as soon as next year.

That's it, at least for now. Did we miss anything? If so, you know what to do.

A Different Kind of Anniversary Patch

Uni Watch is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. And that calls for, of course, an anniversary patch. Full details here.

Paul Lukas realizes that not everyone is as obsessed with nose bumpers as he is (although he can't understand why). If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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