ESPN Reduces On-Air Talent For NFL Draft, Scales Down Post-Pick Interviews
ESPN has “dramatically reduced the number of front-facing staffers who will work the first two days of the NFL Draft,” according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Only Chris Berman, Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper Jr. “will be on the main set" for ESPN's coverage on April 28 and 29. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman said, "Chris is the face of the NFL studio shows. He has a passion for the draft; he's done it for 30 years. ... I don't have to sell you on Mel, and Jon is more dialed in than any analyst I have worked with." The main set talent covering the remainder of the Draft on April 30 “will consist of host Trey Wingo and analysts Trent Dilfer, Kiper and Todd McShay.” Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen will “serve as reporters on a separate set at New York City's Radio City Music Hall for Rounds 1-7, while Suzy Kolber will do Green Room interviews for Rounds 1 and 2 and then move to Bristol to anchor a set consisting of Herm Edwards, Tedy Bruschi and Ron Jaworski.” Rothman said that coverage of the “first and second rounds will not be bogged down with post-pick interviews.” Deitsch noted Saturday coverage will “focus heavily on team evaluations, so expect plenty of coaches and executives to pop on.” Meanwhile, Rothman said the ongoing NFL labor situation will be "fair game" for ESPN analysts because it "affects the draft." Rothman: "If there is no free agency, teams that were filling spots with free agents now have to draft with that in mind. The latter rounds become that much more important." He added he hopes ESPN "will have a presence" at the NFLPA's event in N.Y. that coincides with the Draft (SI.com, 4/12).
LISTEN ALL OF Y'ALL, THIS ISN'T SABOTAGE: NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello yesterday denied a CBSSports.com report "alleging that league employees are attempting to sabotage” the NFLPA’s planned event in N.Y. around the Draft. The report alleged that NFL team officials are telling agents to “stay away from the NFLPA event.” Aiello noted that the report “likely is referring to Gil Brandt, who has assisted the NFL since 1995 in inviting the top prospects” to the draft. Aiello spoke to Brandt and is confident Brandt “never told any of the players they would not be allowed to attend the draft,” as the report claims (NFL.com, 4/12). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I thought it was really wrong for the NFLPA to say that players coming into the league should boycott the draft. This is equally wrong if it's true. It's small, it's petty. The NFL should disassociate itself immediately from all of this because you're taking it out on players. ... Both sides are acting in a petty manner." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Stop using these guys as pawns." Kornheiser said of the lockout in general, "Settle this stupid thing already! Both sides are making money!" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/12).