NFL players try another workout: the Broadcast Booth

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Sebastian Joseph-Day, a former Los Angeles Rams defensive end player, frowned as he noticed his mistake.

A few moments earlier, Joseph-Day’s practice representative as an analyst at the NFL’s launch camp last week as an analyst, a teacher reminded him to stay biased and not say “us” or “we” said the Rams game as he described the action in one.

But it could be difficult for Joseph-Day to stay neutral as he spent three seasons on the team. In the middle of the drill, a “us” slipped, but Joseph-Day, now a Los Angeles loader, recovered and finished the exercise clean.

The NFL founded the workshop 15 years ago because, among other things, it required players to develop, network, and make mistakes as a radio broadcast in a controlled setting.

This year’s camp, held at the league’s West Coast headquarters, took place in the middle of a mature era in the media landscape, shortly after several commentators from the NFL’s major broadcast partners changed jobs, most signing multi-million dollar contracts. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck left Fox on ESPN after two decades, and Al Michaels left NBC 15 years later to call Thursday night’s games for Amazon. They will all earn eight figures each year.

Inflated salaries are the product of the NFL’s growing popularity: League games were 48 of the 50 most-watched shows in the 2021 regular season, and the February Super Bowl received the best ratings in five years. The player is noticing the trend and its benefits, said Larry Fitzgerald, a former recipient of the Arizona Cardinals who participated in the program.

“The fan is watching the NFL games at an unprecedented pace, and I think they’ve seen that because of the top talent that organizations pay the highest dollar for,” he said.

Richard Sherman, a free agent cornerback and camp participant, added: “It’s definitely motivating a lot of guys, and I think it’s one of those places where it starts to get crowded.”

But none of the major play-by-play couples on the network have a black person, and the only Black play-by-play broadcaster, Greg Gumbel for CBS in 2001 and 2004, has called the Super Bowl on television. Mike Tirico, who will replace Michaels on NBC, identifies it as a mixed race.

The lack of diversity among the talents working in the early hours of the NFL is not ideal, said JA Adande, director of sports journalism at Northwestern University.

“It’s a lot of money and it makes you wonder who gets it and which broadcasters have these opportunities and avenues available,” Adand said.

Tracy Perlman, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, said he was hopeful the camp would be expanded. Media companies have long hired former players as analysts for their knowledge of the game and their reputation, but the list of former professionals who have not been successful in the broadcast is long and full of stars.

Members of the Hall of Fame, including quarterback Joe Montana and runner-up Emmitt Smith, have stumbled into their hands with microphones, a fate that the camp wants to avoid.

“Most people can’t get out of the field and stand in front of the camera,” Perlman said. “So we thought about what we could do, especially with the collaboration we have, to build a program that would give them those skills.”

With high demand and the goal of keeping instructional sessions small, the NFL was more selective among participants than in previous years. The league sent out personal invitations and received team recommendations to contact the players. Out of about 40 applicants, the NFL selected 24 players — mostly black — based on past experience and expressions of interest on camera and podcasts. Faculty members included producers and recruiters from NBC, CBS, Fox Sports, and the NFL Network.

Nate Burleson, who played 11 seasons in the NFL before retiring in 2014, is perhaps a former camp student. Burleson is almost ubiquitous on television, as a host of CBS Mornings, the network’s flagship morning newscast, and “The NFL Today,” in its pre-weekly game show.

But when he moved to camp in 2011, Burleson said he struggled with the gameplay. Even though executives praised him throughout the week, he was constantly outraged by his actions in that drill.

“While the camp helped me improve who I was in the media, it was also an honest slap in the face,” Burleson said.

The camp spread his interests and made him want to be more versatile.

“It was like knowing what you wanted to do, but not having a full battery,” said Burleson, who won an Emmy Award last year and was nominated for another one last week. “When you went, you were fully loaded and you had the direction.”

This year’s players ’class spent the whole day learning the daily workflow and interview techniques of the broadcasters in the classroom sessions last week. The next day, they alternated between exercises in front of the camera that included discussions with each other. Sandy Nunez, the NFL’s vice president of air talent management, said he contacted a player’s agent about a potential job offer and was smiling as a player in the control room completed a camera interview.

“I can get a lot of important information here,” Nunez said, “so it’s definitely of great value.”

Drew Kaliski, the CBS co-ordinating producer, said he enjoyed listening to the players ’smart questions, and that the off-season mess gave them a good conversation to make the networks more inclusive.

“We definitely need to diversify our advertising teams everywhere,” Kaliski said. “I think having a lot of people to work with will make them all better, stronger, smarter, and ultimately show better.”

Due to the low turnover of networked posts, the faculty advised players to continue training on their own to be prepared, suggesting that they try to make air appearances in local markets or podcasts because they have less barriers to access than national sessions. .

Brandon Marshall, a 13-season NFL receiver, repeated their advice. Marshall never went to camp, but he got contracts with Fox Sports and Showtime and created the “NI AM ATHLETE” podcast, where he and other former players discuss trending topics with guests such as Deion Sanders and Antonio Brown.

Many of the episodes also filmed for streaming have garnered millions of views on YouTube. Marshall said he believes podcasting is a non-traditional way for members to take advantage of it, whether or not they have received formal training as camp participants.

“There are a lot of seats on ESPN, but a huge part of this space is that there are no rules,” Marshall said. “People are gaining ground here because they’re coming out of the field.”

Sherman, for example, has followed a similar path – trying to get a journalist representative out of national broadcasting options – while browsing his free agency. In March, his former Seattle teammate Bobby Wagner, a linebacker, announced that he would join the Rams as a free agency through his Twitter account and used his podcast as a platform of the same name from draft forecasts to everything about his mental health. 2021 arrest. Sherman, who is replacing himself with an agent, is still training, but is also preparing for opportunities after his player career.

According to him, talking about football is a natural extension of all the work of the players, “like walking and talking and breathing”.

He added: “It’s one of those things that you enjoy being around the game and still being a part of a form or a fashion.”

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