Six NFL players who faced their former team in Week 1


When NFL stars switch teams, they typically have some time to get acclimated with their new club before returning to their old stomping grounds.

Tom Brady, for instance, played a full season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and won a Super Bowl before making a highly anticipated homecoming at Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots in 2021. Similarly, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana had a full season under their belts before they finally faced their original teams.

Other stars got to square off against their former teammates the following season. Terrell Owens’ return to Philadelphia with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006 comes to mind as a player who battled his old team less than a year after leaving.

While that may seem like a quick turnaround, it hardly compares to what Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson will experience to open the 2022 NFL season.

Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers will host the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. The Browns, who drafted Mayfield first overall in the 2018 NFL draft, dealt him to the Panthers in July after the quarterback demanded a trade.

Wilson’s reunion with his former team may be a bit more sentimental. The Super Bowl XLVIII champion spent his first 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks before being traded to the Denver Broncos in March. Wilson’s first game with his new team will be at his old stadium, as the Broncos open up the year with a visit to Lumen Field for Monday Night Football.

Week 1 reunions like the ones Mayfield and Wilson have scheduled are rare, so here’s a look back at six other players who faced their former organization in their first game with a new team:

Neil Smith: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos, 1997

Defensive end Neil Smith spent his first nine NFL seasons in Kansas City, compiling five Pro Bowl nods and a first-team All-Pro selection. After missing the playoffs in 1996, Smith decided to stick around in the AFC West by signing with the Broncos.

His new team was saddled with a home matchup against the Chiefs in Week 1 of the 1997 season. Smith and the Broncos’ defense was up for the task, as they earned a 19-3 victory.

Denver ended up playing Kansas City two more times in the 1997 season. The Chiefs beat the Broncos 24-22 in Week 12, but the Broncos got a 14-10 win at Arrowhead Stadium in the divisional round. Smith finished his first playoff run in Denver with a Super Bowl XXXII win and the team defended its title the following season.

Lawyer Milloy: New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills, 2003

The Patriots made a shocking move just five days before the start of the 2003 NFL season by releasing Lawyer Milloy. The safety earned four Pro Bowl selections and helped the organization win its first Super Bowl title in 2001. Still, Bill Belichick called Milloy a “casualty of the system,” citing financial reasons for the release.

Given Milloy’s resume, he wasn’t on the open market for long. He signed with the Buffalo Bills, who were set to host the Patriots in Week 1, one day following his release. Milloy and the Bills proceeded to hand Belichick one of the biggest defeats of his Patriots career, a 31-0 thrashing.

In the end, it was still Belichick who came out on top. New England lost just one game the rest of the regular season, won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004 and did not lose to Buffalo again until 2011.

Kurt Warner: Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Giants, 2005

Warner’s Week 1 reunion didn’t occur against his first NFL team.

The Hall of Fame quarterback played six seasons with the St. Louis Rams, winning a Super Bowl and two MVP awards during that time. He departed in 2004 and joined the New York Giants as a veteran to pair with No. 1 overall draft pick Eli Manning. Warner played 10 games in his lone season with New York before heading to Arizona.

Warner got to face his former teams three times during the 2005 regular season. The first of those matchups came against the Giants in Week 1, which turned into a 42-19 loss in his Cardinals debut. Arizona followed that up with an 18-17 loss to the Rams in Week 2. Warner finally beat one of his old organizations in Week 11 when he returned to St. Louis with a 38-28 victory.

Darrelle Revis: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Jets, 2013

Revis Island relocated from East Rutherford, N.J., to Tampa Bay in April 2013. As part of a trade from the New York Jets, the lockdown cornerback inked a new deal with the Buccaneers that made him the highest-paid defensive back in football.

In Week 1, Revis suited up against the team he had spent his first six NFL seasons with. The Jets got the better of Revis in the reunion by eking out an 18-17 win.

Revis turned the tables in a major way the following year. He joined the Patriots for the 2014 season, got two wins against the Jets, earned his fourth first-team All-Pro selection and wrapped it all up with a Super Bowl XLVI win. He didn’t burn bridges with the Jets, though, as he re-signed with the organization in 2015.

Adrian Peterson: New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings, 2017

Adrian Peterson’s reunion in Minnesota is eerily similar to the one Wilson is heading towards in Seattle.

Both players spent 10 years with their first organization before departing. They also had to make their debuts with their new teams at their old home stadiums for Week 1 Monday Night Football matchups. Peterson’s reunion came in the 2017 season, where he joined Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in the New Orleans Saints’ loaded backfield and immediately made the trip to U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 1.

Wilson will hope for a better game result than Peterson, whose team fell 29-19 in the 2017 Week 1 game. He will also hope for a longer tenure with his new team, since Peterson played just four games with the Saints before getting dealt to the Cardinals.

Sam Darnold: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers, 2021

If Peterson is a parallel for Wilson, then Darnold is a carbon copy for Mayfield.

For the second straight season, the Panthers’ starting quarterback will make his team debut at home against his old organization. Darnold was traded to the Panthers in 2021 after being drafted third overall by the Jets in 2018, just two picks after Mayfield. Darnold was under center against the Jets in Week 1 and started his Carolina tenure on the right foot with a 19-14 win.

Things went south for Darnold after the Panthers started 3-0. He won just one of his next eight starts, and Carolina made a trade for another quarterback in Mayfield this past offseason. Mayfield usurped Darnold and will look to get the Panthers off to a similar 1-0 start to the 2022 campaign.

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