The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their National Football League 2013 pre-season training camp on Wednesday - workouts that kick off a journey that for two teams will culminate next February in the Super Bowl.
Only 50 days after the Bucs' rookies arrived at camp, the NFL season is slated to open with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens playing at Denver Broncos.
The reigning champions typically open at home, but the Ravens were booked into a road opener after Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles refused to move their home game at a ballpark adjacent to the Ravens' stadium.
The New Orleans Saints were set to follow by opening workouts Friday, with the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns to open pre-season practice Saturday.
While newcomers, free agents and college draft choices will report in the opening days of workouts, it will be the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins who welcome the first veteran players to camp Sunday. That is because the Cowboys and Dolphins meet in the first pre-season exhibition game on August 4, the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio.
The Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts will be the last to see experienced players arrive, a full week later than Miami and Dallas on July 27.
Several questions linger over the upcoming season, among them whether the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson can set a single-season league rushing record.
Petersen finished eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 last year.
The New England Patriots have enjoyed 10 consecutive 10-win seasons, but at age 35, quarterback Tom Brady will be tested without favourite receiver Wes Welker, who signed with Denver, and Aaron Hernandez, who was released after being charged with murder.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is also questionable after back surgery.
New Orleans produced an NFL one-season record 7,474 yards two year ago, but after a season marred by suspensions in the wake of a pay-to-injure scandal, the Saints defence allowed a record 7,042 yards. And while the Ravens return with quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed a US$120.6 million (Dh443m) contract extension, Baltimore lost much of their championship roster to retirement or other teams.
Replacing linebacker Ray Lewis, a defensive stalwart and team leader, will be difficult on and off the field.
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