Twelve months later, a certain uniform columnist doesn't want to say he told you so, but, um, he told you so. Aside from the Seahawks, who were put into the Nike centrifuge and emerged with a predictably eccentric costume, the rest of the league still looks like the NFL, at least for now.
But that's not to say the transition from Reebok to Nike has been seamless. There are three Nike-related visual elements you'll be seeing a lot of this year -- all of them, unfortunately, rather annoying:
2. The neck roll: In addition to the Nikelace, many teams are going with a two-tone collar design that looks like an old-fashioned neck roll. Judging by the communiqués that have been arriving here at Uni Watch HQ during the preseason, this feature is particularly unpopular with fans (and with good reason).
3. The sweatbox: Many of Nike's college jerseys in recent years have incorporated stretch panels and ventilation panels. The idea is to provide just the right kind of fabric at each area of the body, rather than using the same fabric for the whole jersey. When the jersey is dry, you can't really tell the difference. But when the players perspire, these fabric panels turn dark, creating a two-tone effect. College football uni fans refer to this as the sweatbox, because of the square-shaped panel on the abdomen that typically turns dark with sweat. And now Nike has brought the sweatbox to the NFL.
Some teams have incorporated all three of these changes, a few have incorporated none of them and most have chosen just one or two. Here's a breakdown that shows where all 32 teams stand on these Nike elements, along with other developments for the new season (you can click on each team's name to see its primary 2012 uniforms):
The TV numbers have been moved from the sleeves to the shoulders, which gives the sleeve striping and the George Halas perma-memorial more room to breathe. ... A Madden video screen shot from earlier this year showed an orange pants option, and those pants are also shown in the NFL Style Guide, so we may see that sometime this fall. ... The orange alternate jersey has been mothballed, but the Monsters of the Midway throwback should make an appearance at some point.
The orange alternate from recent years is now the primary jersey, and the navy jersey is now the alternate. ... The combination of the neck roll and the collarbone horns makes for a real mess in the upper-jersey area, no? ... The pants striping now wraps around to the front of the knee, which looks awful (although at least now people will stop saying the stripes look like swooshes). ... The little logo sleeve that used to be worn on the belt buckle has been scrapped.
Don't look now, but the Cards have actually made a significant uni improvement: They've cut down on the black collar piping, which is serious addition by subtraction. Still among the league's worst-looking teams, though.
Many denizens of the uni-verse were hoping Nike would do something about the odd angle of the lightning bolts on the shoulders. Alas, it was not to be -- at least not yet. ... The Bolts will wear white jerseys with white pants for their home opener against the Titans on Sept. 16.
Back in the spring, Nike ran some promotional spots showing the Colts wearing striped socks. Unfortunately, it turns out that those won't be worn on the field. ... All teams use either Velcro or double-sided tape to adhere the players' jerseys to their pads, but the Colts seem to be using an unusually large number of adhesion points, which is resulting in some seriously wrinkled jerseys.
For years the Cowboys have engaged in an unusual aftermarket uni alteration: They've sewn a little wing-shaped piece of fabric with a hole in it just below the collar, and many players then use this to tie down their jerseys to their pads. But there's been no sign of that feature during this year's preseason games. Maybe the new Nikelace collars aren't conducive to alterations. ... Fortunately, another longstanding Dallas visual signature is still in place: the blue Dymo Tape nameplate on the back of each helmet.
Essentially unchanged, even in the tailoring, construction, and fabrication. ... According to some press notes from Nike, there were "color matching issues." Assuming those can be resolved by next year, the Iggles may adopt some of the Nike elements in 2013. ... The black alternate jerseys, which weren't worn last year, will resurface for the Oct. 28 game against the Falcons.
The Panthers have given their logo a few tweaks, so the updated logo is on the helmet, the jersey sleeves, and the pant hips. Aside from that, essentially unchanged, even in the tailoring, construction, and fabrication.
Essentially unchanged, even in the tailoring, construction, and fabrication. ... The Al Davis memorial decal, which was added to the helmets last season, is still there this year. ... Shoe color has changed from white to black.
Those gold pants sure look good, especially with the striped socks. ... The 'Skins have added a throwback to the mix this season (although that Nikelace doesn't look very throwback-y, does it?). The most interesting thing about it is the helmet, which has been imprinted with a leatherhead pattern. Way better than that plain brown helmet the Packers wore with their throwbacks in recent years, right?
When people imagined what a Nike-fied NFL might look like, this is what they had in mind. By now you've probably decided whether you love it or hate it (there appears to be little middle ground). Will the entire league eventually look like this? Seems unlikely. Will three or four more teams look like this by, say, 2015? That seems like a distinct possibility. (For a more detailed analysis of the Seahawks' new uni set, look here.)
The Steelers have a very nice 80th-anniversary logo, but they're not wearing it as a patch, except on their new 1934 throwbacks, which will be worn twice this season (you can go ahead and make all your jokes about bumblebees and chain gangs now). ... The Steelers followed their annual preseason ritual of not wearing their front helmet numbers, but don't be alarmed -- that's standard procedure. The numbers will reappear once the regular season starts.
Just when you thought they couldn't look any worse, they had to go and add that neck roll. Sigh.
Meanwhile, there are some league-wide developments worth discussing -- some Nike-related and some not:
• The NFL Equipment patch, which has appeared on every jersey collar and pant thigh for years now, has been revised. It's now a little plastic chip instead of a cloth patch, and the word "Equipment" has been eliminated.
• Up until now, teams have used stretch-fabric panels for pants striping. But Nike's pants use mesh panels. You can't really tell the difference unless there's a close-up of the pants, but it's there. (A few teams appear to be sticking with the old stretch-fabric panel stripes, including the Packers.)
• For many teams, the players' names on the backs of the jerseys now appear to be positioned closer to the uniform numbers, as you can see in these shots of the Dolphins and Cowboys. This isn't an across-the-board change -- some teams still have the traditional spacing, and Uni Watch hasn't yet been able to document the situation for all 32 clubs. But it's something to keep an eye on.
• Captaincy patches weren't worn during the preseason, but most teams will start wearing them now that the regular season is starting (a few clubs, such as the Packers and Steelers, don't wear them). As you might recall, the number of gold stars indicates how many years the player has been a captain. Last season was the fifth year of the patch program, and fifth-year captains got a gold "C" to go along with the four gold stars. So what will sixth-year captains get this season? The same thing as fifth-year captains -- four gold stars and a gold "C." So basically, after your fifth year as captain, your patch design stays the same.
• Thanks to a rule change, players now can wear generational suffixes ("Jr.," "Sr." or Roman numerals) on their nameplates. Two such players are on the Redskins: Robert Griffin III and Roy Helu Jr. (For further info, look here.)
• As you are probably aware, the NFL has been using replacement officials. What you might not have noticed is that they appear to have been wearing replacement uniforms. For one thing, the position designations on the backs of the jerseys have vanished. Also, every officiating crew during the preseason was wearing the long black slacks -- no more white knickers, at least for now. It remains to be seen whether these protocols will be maintained once the real zebras eventually come back on the job.
• Motorola was the NFL's headset sponsor for the past 13 years, but that deal ended after the Super Bowl. The NFL apparently wasn't able to find a new sponsor, because the coaches' headsets now are branding-free, except for the NFL logo. Chalk it up as a rare victory against logo creep.
OK, that's it for this season. Did Uni Watch miss anything? If so, send your updates here.
Paul Lukas, a lifelong 49ers fan, can't decide whether Jim Harbaugh's cover-up patch is really cool or really lame-o. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch website, 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.