Talking The Talk: Steve Smith Discusses New Studio Broadcast Role With NFL Network
Steve Smith Sr. is taking a different approach to preparing for this football season than he has for the last 25 years. The former Panthers star is making the transition full-time to the studio in ’17 as part of NFL Network’s team, working on “NFL GameDay Morning” each Sunday from 7:00-9:00am ET. He will also periodically contribute to the 9:00-11:00am “GameDay Morning” show, as well as pre- and postgame coverage at select “TNF” games and the Super Bowl. “You can’t just go in there and tell people to ice up and do this or do that,” Smith said of his new role. “You have to give the viewer perspective, something to hold onto.” Smith recently caught up with THE DAILY about his new role.
Q: What’s the transition been like for you from playing to the studio?
Smith: It requires some adjustments. I’ve never not played football. Transitioning to being an analyst, it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant through a straw. There’s so much information and so many things going on, you can only do so many things at once. I’ve talked to some players who have been successful, they’ve also shared some failures and some do’s and don’ts.
Q: When did you know you wanted to go into broadcasting after your career?
Smith: I did an internship at WFNZ-AM in Charlotte and was under contract with SiriusXM radio doing a once-a-week show. Taylor Zarzour from WFNZ, he came up to me at a game in Washington and said, “Hey, you can do this,” and introduced me to his agent. I actually didn’t think I was qualified. I was very apprehensive, and so I just said “Ok, I would love to learn.”
Q: What other prior experience do you have?
Smith: When the Panthers played in the Super Bowl I worked it for CBS, and I worked for them a few more times. I went to Fox Sports 1 and was actually under contract with “Mike & Mike” on ESPN during the season. I was quietly going around and methodically understanding how it works to be a broadcaster and an analyst. I was walking through the steps versus saying, “Hey, I think I can do this, this is easy.” Taking it at a crawling pace before I try to run or walk.
Q: You were always outspoken as a player. Has NFL Network given you any restrictions on biting your tongue? Do you feel comfortable criticizing players if warranted?
Smith: For the most part I’m going to try very hard not to be criticizing players, more critiquing them. I’m not going to say a guy shouldn’t be getting what he’s getting. If you have a five-time pro bowler and he doesn’t have a good game, I’m not going to say he needs to be cut or he sucks. I’m going to say you expect more out of him. For me it’s really highlighting players, I’m not going to pigeonhole myself. I want to learn and be able to be looked at as an analyst who is able to look at both sides of the ball. I’m not going to be a guy that everyone looks at as this shouter, this loud talking head. I’m learning the administrative part of the business -- why teams are doing the things they’re doing, learning the culture.
Q: You mentioned you were apprehensive at first -- what’s your comfort level like now?
Smith: I’m not very comfortable. Because it’s new, I don’t know a lot of things, so I’m not going to sit here and say I’m comfortable with this and that. Do I know football? Yes, I know football. There are things about this game that go on that I have no idea about, so I’m going to keep asking. Most teams are very open to answer because they know I’m not doing it for a story, I’m doing it for knowledge and understanding.
Q: Do you have any aspirations to get on a game broadcast? How do you think Tony Romo will fare with CBS?
Smith: Absolutely not. That’s a lot of learning, a lot of travel. Right now with the things in my life, I’m not interested in doing that much travel. As for Tony, just doing my job, I think it’s going to be a learning curve for him, like anybody else in anything else. But I’m not going to take anything away from him and say he can’t do it. There are people who said the same thing about me. At the end of the day we’re going to go out and show people that we’re not just dumb jocks.