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Volume 24 No. 159
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Ray Lewis Draws Focus In ESPN Debut, Praised For Personal Take On Aaron Hernandez

ESPN analyst Ray Lewis yesterday had an "outstanding debut" on "Sunday NFL Countdown," according to David Zurawik of the Baltimore SUN. After one week, Lewis is "already better than two-thirds of the ex-NFL-players drawing paychecks as TV analysts." His "greatest contribution" to the show was the "genuine sense of energy, enthusiasm and even joy that he brought to the conversation." The show last year "felt flat and, frankly, kind of old," but "not today." It was "jacked up and juiced from beginning to end with energy, information and insights." Lewis "added to those insights with his keen understanding of the game." However, the "triumph of Lewis' debut was not all his doing." The show's producers "time and again ... put him in a position to succeed, and his TV teammates were skilled and gracious helping him." Some of Lewis' best moments came in a discussion with Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson about former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez and the "issues of character, criminality and the NFL" (, 9/8).'s Richard Deitsch wrote the show's producers were "smart to let him blend into the show rather than make it all about Lewis, even as his colleagues genuflected his way throughout the show." Lewis "clearly ... is not a game-changing television hire at this point but he was more than adequate on opening morning." He has a "charismatic manner and had moments where you drew closer to the screen to hear what he had to say." He was "particularly interesting when explaining how to stop the read-option and the importance" of Saints coach Sean Payton. However, ESPN producers "should immediately let Lewis know that he should stop referring to the Ravens as 'us'" (, 9/8). Ravens play-by-play announcer Gerry Sandusky wrote on his Twitter feed, “Had a chance to watch Ray Lewis a little on ESPN today. I think he'll be a big star in the media world too."

: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes,"The strongest segment of the Sunday morning NFL pregame shows, by far, was ESPN's look into the Aaron Hernandez situation." The segment "concentrated on how teams vet players coming out of a college and if they, especially the Patriots, should have known" that Hernandez was "headed for trouble." Lewis, Johnson and Carter all "addressed their personal issues and talked about how certain teams helped lead them on the path to more productive lives on and off the field." Jones writes, "Good for ESPN and good for the analysts, particularly Lewis and Carter whose issues were more serious than the former Buc receiver Johnson, for using their stories as the backbone for a compelling and intelligent discussion" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/9).

TRASK MASTER: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes former Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask "stole the show" during her debut on CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show." She "came off as a stern, well-prepared professor of NFLology." Trask "came out swinging, wondering 'if there was a volume button'" to turn down host Adam Schein down. Raissman: "We also liked the way she dismissed her colleagues’ points by waving her pen in their faces." Whoever "assembled this cast must know something about chemistry," because "That Other Pregame Show," "aka The Amy Trask Show, revealed major potential on its maiden voyage" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/9).