Some of what you may have missed over the weekend from ESPN:
1. Jon Gruden’s “Gruden Extra” interview with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round pick, quarterback Josh Freeman, will air during the Monday Night Countdown pregame (ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET). Freeman will make his first start for the Vikings on Monday Night Football against Eli Manning and the New York Giants (8:25 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN).
Jon Gruden and Minnesota Vikings QB Josh Freeman talk in advance of tonight’s Monday Night Football game. (Chris Wondoloski/ESPN)
Editor’s Note: Front Row also asked Bruschi about this video of him and his former Patriots teammate Tom Brady from last weekend’s Kentucky Derby.
Bruschi with Tom Brady
What’s your connection to Kentucky Derby-winning horse Orb?I got to know Ogden Phipps and his wife, Ashley, over Derby weekend and I found out he was the owner of Orb. We met just this year during some of the social events and we hit it off. I told him a funny story about how before I left I asked my oldest son to pick some horses to see who he thought would win. He picked Orb. I told him (Phipps) the story and he gave us an Orb hat. So I ended up betting Orb for my son, and Orb won. After the race I wanted to go see him. We ended up going over a barricade to get to where the owners were. Tom (Brady) and I went over to him and gave him a hug, and I said, ‘you just won the Super Bowl.’
It was so different for me because I was cheering for Orb and I wanted Orb to win. I was telling Tom and my teammates, usually we’re the horse, and we don’t have to worry about any of this. We go out there and play and let the chips fall where they may. We never have this type of attachment. So, it felt strange for me to cheer and then feel so good for someone because you knew them. It flipped a switch for me because we’re normally the horses.
Front Row spoke with Bruschi about the Hall of Fame honor and his memories of playing at Arizona.
How did you get the news about the Hall of Fame?
I got a call from Steve Hatchell, President and CEO of the National Football Foundation. He told me about being inducted and I was almost baffled. I know it’s a tremendous honor and it felt that way but I could not believe it was happening. I didn’t play college football to be a Hall of Famer. All I wanted to do was rush the passer and win games for Arizona. I think that’s the mindset everyone should have playing football – just play hard, win the game and move on. I don’t know how to describe it but it caught me off guard. My last game for Arizona, we beat Arizona State, and before I went back in the tunnel, I turned back around to look at the field and remember the moment, and for me it was over. To be able to relive it all is exciting.
What do you remember about being recruited?
I wanted to play in the Pac-10, which is now the Pac-12. Really my only two choices were Washington State and Arizona. I really looked at my college choice as the place I would spend my next four or five years, and I just fell in love with Tucson, the sunshine and the desert down there.
Who influenced you most while you were there?
Those college years are so important for a young man. I spent five years there from 18 to 23. I was raised by coach Dick Tomey. Clarence Brooks, who’s now a defensive line coach with the Baltimore Ravens, Rich Ellerson, now the head coach at West Point, Marc Lunsford was the coach who recruited me. It was more than football. They were teaching me how to be a man, and the decisions I had to make.
What are your best memories of playing college football at Arizona?
Definitely being part of “Desert Swarm.” I don’t know where the nickname came from but it’s cool. No one knew about me or Brandon Sanders, Charlie Camp, Tony Bouie, Jim Hoffman, these types of guys. No one knew about us individually but people knew about us when we played together. That’s what made us so special. We were a unit with a chip on our shoulder that played against the USC’s and the UCLA’s. We always went out to prove a point every time we played.
What is the best congratulatory message you’ve received?
All the ones from my coaches. I look at their congratulatory message, and I text them back and say, ‘no, thank you!’ I want to thank them for all the values they taught me – playing hard, putting the team first and believing no one’s better than you.
What was your best game as a collegian?
Our best game was against Illinois. We won 16-14 and our offense didn’t score a point. We scored two defensive touchdowns, and I believe a safety. I had three sacks. To win without your offense scoring a point, that’s something I always think about.
The author has had over 500 Sunday conversations with USA Today’s departing media writer, Michael Hiestand. This was one of Hiestand’s earliest columns from 1992.
My conversation yesterday with Michael Hiestand, the TV sports reporter for USA Today, started with Tuesday’s Sports Emmys and ended with where his twins decided to go to college (North Carolina and Virginia). It was similar to the 500-plus Sunday afternoon chats I’ve had with the quirky reporter since 1990, but may be the last as Hiestand has accepted a buy-out from the “Nation’s Newspaper” and looks for his next assignment.
USA Today Sports has had a reserved spot in the psyche of the sports media industry since the full-color paper debuted in 1982. More space is devoted to covering sports media in USA Today than any other newspaper, and its ubiquity in hotels and airports have furthered its place in the travel-heavy sports world. continue reading…
For the first time in ESPN’s 34 years of televising the NFL Draft, the company’s Social Media group will have a presence at Radio City Music Hall. You might say they’re ESPN’s newest expansion team.
With hopes of engaging fans across multiple screens during the three-day telecast — beginning tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN — Senior Manager of ESPN Social Media Jason Romano detailed the three major initiatives his group is planning this week: continue reading…
While ESPN’s live coverage on the Boston Marathon tragedy continues, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends and the running community. Several ESPN employees were in Boston as reporters, runners or spectators and have shared their stories on SportsCenter and ESPN.com.
ESPN Employee Eyewitness Accounts
Bob Ley interviewed ESPN.com senior director of design and race participant Dan Benshoff, who describes the scene around the finish line and in the medical tent.
Jeremy Schaapinterviewed ESPN producer and race participant Bryan Jaroch, who said he was about a mile from crossing the finish line when the explosions occurred. continue reading…
ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian (Joseph Faraoni/ESPN)
Click HERE to listen or visit iTunes to download the podcast and be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the Front & Center podcast. Also, make sure to check out the ESPN Radio app, available for the iPad.
ESPN analyst Bill Polian is no stranger to NFL free agency. The six-time National Football League Executive of the Year — who was honored by the Touchdown Club of New Orleans this weekend with the Pete Rozelle Award for his longtime contributions to the game — helped build multiple successful franchises during his 24 years as a general manager.
Having moved from the front office to the analyst ranks last March, Polian now serves as ESPN’s GM, analyzing the free agency process, player acquisitions, and more on television, radio and for ESPN Insider.
In anticipation of the start of free agency (today, 4 p.m. ET), the Front & Center podcast above offers a conversation with Polian, who discusses how his business philosophies changed though the years and the best free agent decision he ever made.
Polian and many other ESPN analysts and insiders will have all the latest free agency news throughout the day. (Fans can also stay updated by using ESPN.com’s Free Agent Tracker.)
A collection of ESPN’s Super Bowl champions on-set in New Orleans. (Tonya Malinowski/ESPN)
NEW ORLEANS — ESPN commentators offer their predictions for Super Bowl XLVII. Of the 35 ESPN commentator picks, 21 chose the San Francisco 49ers, while 14 selected the Baltimore Ravens as the anticipated winner:
Picking the 49ers:
Tedy Bruschi, NFL Live analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion, 28-27: “The difference is the 49ers’ offensive line. Frank Gore is the MVP.”
Frank Caliendo, comedian/impersonator and Sunday NFL Countdown contributor, 30-27: “Both teams — who have been known for their defenses — have been putting points on the board as of late, but I think the 49ers have a little more firepower — and I really just want to see how crazy [head coach] Jim Harbaugh goes if they win.”
Cris Carter, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst, 31-27: “[Colin] Kaepernick’s going to run the ball a lot.”
John Clayton, ESPN.com senior NFL writer, 28-24: “With power football in vogue in this Super Bowl, the 49ers will overpower the Ravens at the end. The 49ers are deep in talent and focused, but it still wouldn’t surprise me if they need overtime to get the win.”
Trent Dilfer, Monday Night Countdown analyst and Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl XXXV champion quarterback, 31-23: “As conflicted as I am having to pick between two of my former teams . . . Both move the ball. The Pistol [offense] allows the Niners to punch it in, while the Ravens are stuck kicking field goals.”
Mike Ditka, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst, Super Bowl champion as player, coach, 28-24: “I like what Jim [Harbaugh] has done and how he’s built the team. If the 49ers do not get a pass rush, they will be in trouble but they have found a way to get it done all season.”
Herm Edwards, NFL Live analyst, 27-24: “The 49ers have too many options on offense that present problems for the Ravens. Even though Colin Kaepernick is young, sometimes being young and naïve in a game like this is a good thing.”
Merril Hoge, NFL Live, NFL Matchup and NFL PrimeTime analyst, 21-20: “The core of the 49ers, the offensive and defensive lines, is the best in football. Colin Kaepernick has brought focus to their offense, but it’s because they are so good in the trenches.”
Tom Jackson, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst, 24-21: “In the critical area — the front line on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball — I think the 49ers have an edge.”
Keyshawn Johnson, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst and Super Bowl champion, 24-17: “No one’s figured out how to stop this Pistol offense. Defenses have struggled against this offense and Kaepernick.”
Chris Mortensen, NFL senior analyst and NFL32 co-host, 31-23: “Colin Kaepernick’s composure has been the biggest surprise for me this postseason, and I don’t think he’s going to lose it on the NFL’s biggest stage.”
Jerry Rice, NFL Live analyst, Hall of Famer and three-time San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl champion, 24-17: “The Niners will have a better defense and Colin Kaepernick bringing so many different formations to the offense will present matchup problems for the Ravens.”
Ryen Russillo, co-host of ESPN Radio’s SVP & Russillo, 24-17: “San Francisco has been the best team all season and they will be the better team on Sunday.”
Adam Schefter, NFL Insider, 17-14: “Two throwback teams playing a throwback game in which two undrafted free agent kickers, David Akers and Justin Tucker, could decide the world championship.”
Mark Schlereth, NFL Live analyst, ESPN Radio host and three-time Super Bowl champion, 28-27: “Offensively, Colin Kaepernick — the dual-threat and read-option [QB] — will be too much.”
ESPN’s Super Week continues with a jam-packed Tuesday, including Media Day coverage beginning at 11 a.m. ET with anchor Hannah Storm and analyst Mark Schlereth. ESPN Radio, including hosts Colin Cowherd, Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo, also have wall-to-wall coverage all week.
ESPN’s coverage of Super Bowl XLVII continues Tuesday, Jan. 29, from the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans (Jax Brewery parking lot, 600 Decatur Street) and from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, site of Super Bowl Media Day.
SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm and analyst Mark Schlereth, a three-time Super Bowl champion, will host ESPN’s coverage of Media Day from the Superdome (11 a.m.–2:15 p.m. ET) on SportsCenter.
Following Media Day, ESPN’s SportsCenter Special at 3 p.m. ET will focus on the “Super Bowl Media Day experience” with host Steve Levy, three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi and former NFL head coach Herm Edwards.
Tuesday’s schedule (NOTE: All times CT, in chart below). For the full release click here:
When Monday Night Football rolled into Foxborough, Mass. last weekend for the most recent contest between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, ESPNBoston.com’sMike Reiss got a bit of a twinkle in his eyes.
“Like Tom Brady said [last week], ‘There’s something special about Monday Night Football,” said Reiss, who has covered the Patriots for a decade and a half, the last three years for ESPNBoston.com.
In the video above, Reiss shares his thoughts on having the MNF crew in town; how ESPNBoston.com approaches its coverage of the Patriots (and everything Boston sports); and what it’s like to work closely with ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi.
Last Friday’s telecast of NFL Kickoff has generated some buzz on the internet for reasons beyond its usual astute and informative analysis and information.
Fans of the movie, Princess Bride, picked up on a recurring theme throughout the show.
“Tedy (Bruschi), Mark (Schlereth) and I really like the movie,” said host Trey Wingo. “We used a few lines on previous NFL Live shows.
“On NFL Kickoff last Friday, it sort of started and just kept going,” he said. “At some point it becomes a challenge to see if you can keep it going. . . without forcing it. There was no agenda, no pre-planning, no forethought. We simply did it to amuse ourselves. It’s fun that people who are fans of the movie picked up on it, but we never did it to attract attention to ourselves.”
ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row
• NFL analyst and ESPN Radio host Mark Schlereth has a wide range of interests beyond football and sports. One of his recent projects was a role in the upcoming movie Red Dawn which arrives in theaters Wednesday, Nov. 21. We have a video of his performance and he talked with us about his experience.
• This past weekend College GameDay visited the USS San Diego, stationed at San Diego Naval Base, in support of Veterans Day. An ESPN Images photographer captured some great behind-the-scenes shots of the crew as well as a time lapse video of the set up for GameDay on the ship.
• Front Row spoke with Dick Shafter, MNF’s timeout producer. You may have seen Schafter on the sidelines wearing bright orange sleeves which he uses to signal the referees when commercial breaks are requested. Read more about his job on the sidelines here.
• Yesterday’s Outside the Lines feature marked the start of a collaboration between OTL and PBS’s FRONTLINE. Front Rowspoke with brothers, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, who are investigating the ongoing story of concussions in the National Football League.