Collinsworth, Dungy, Harrison Preview NFL Season
There is a level of excitement, there is a buzz about it, there is such an uncertainty about the season. – NBC’s Collinsworth
“You’re the red letter game for everyone.” – Dungy on Pittsburgh as defending champion
NEW YORK – September 2, 2009 – Marquee teams and storied rivalries highlight NBC’s 2009 NFL schedule, which begins next Thursday night in primetime with the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Tennessee Titans. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET. In the first “Sunday Night Football” matchup of the season on September 13, Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears visit historic Lambeau Field and their rival the Green Bay Packers. Bob Costas hosts “Football Night in America” live from Lambeau at 7 p.m. ET.
NBC Sports today previewed the season on a media conference call with Cris Collinsworth, who moves from the studio to the “Sunday Night Football” broadcast booth, along with Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, in their first year as “Football Night in America” studio analysts. For a complete replay of the call, dial 719-457-0820 and enter passcode: 2428883. Highlights of the call follow:
COLLINSWORTH ON STARTING THE SEASON: “The strangest thing is for me as I’m sitting here a week away from calling the start of regular season games, is how remarkably similar I feel to the way I felt when I was 22, and then when I started broadcasting when I was 30. There is a level of excitement, there is a buzz about it, there is such an uncertainty about the season. It’s fun to feel like a kid again. This is one of those exciting moments.”
HARRISON ON TRANSITION TO BROADCASTING: “I’m several months away from removing myself from the game after 15 years and it’s funny because I don’t miss training camp, I don’t miss the everyday grind. I do miss the players, but the one thing I can say is that I have more butterflies now than what I’ve had in the past going into a season and going into training camp.”
DUNGY ON TRANSITION TO BROADCASTING: “It’s a little bit different for me. You really felt like you had a handle on things when you’re in training camp everyday as a coach. You pretty much knew by this time of year what kind of team you were going to have and I don’t have that feeling this year. Not being around it, not seeing it everyday, not seeing as much tape, so it is going to be exciting to see how the season plays out. I’m looking forward to that Tennessee-Pittsburgh game to really see things kick off.
“Rodney and I are both feeling like rookies, but Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann are going to be great to work with. I think we’re going to have an exciting studio show and really looking forward to the year and seeing how our schedule plays out. We have some great Sunday night games and I think it’s going to be a fun year. It’ll be exciting to get started and for me it’s the anticipation of the unknown.”
DUNGY ON PITTSBURGH: “With Pittsburgh, you have to look at what every defending champion has. You’re the red letter game for everybody. You’re going to play that schedule where you’re playing a lot of primetime games. They’ll be ready for it, but it takes a toll on you.”
HARRISON ON TENNESSEE: “I anticipate looking at a lot more eight and nine man boxes forcing Kerry Collins to be that quarterback that he needs to be. You have to throw the ball down the field and I don’t think they’re capable of throwing the ball down the field consistently enough to challenge the Pittsburgh defense.”
DUNGY ON TENNESSEE: “Tennessee has a lot to prove. They had a great year in the regular season and they didn’t get it done in the playoffs. Chris Johnson is the key there. He made so many big plays for them and they haven’t been a team that has gotten big plays from their passing game. He’s been the guy that supplied the big plays. I think it’s critical that he doesn’t get hurt. If he has a great year I think they can go a long way. If he doesn’t continue to make big plays I think their offense is going to struggle.”
COLLINSWORTH ON TENNESSEE: “There are new faces all over the skill positions of Tennessee. I had a chance to watch them practice a couple of weeks ago. I think there is enough there. I think they’re going to be better offensively. I think the big question with this team is Albert Haynesworth. How does his loss affect this defense? Jeff Fiscer is a great coach, has a great defensive pedigree, but that’s a big loss. We’ll have to see how that plays out.”
COLLINSWORTH ON GREEN BAY: “Watching the Packers and the way that they’re playing, I really do feel like the circus leaving town has really helped this football team. With Dom [Capers] coming in and taking over the defense, they seem refocused despite the change. Offensively, Aaron [Rodgers] is putting on an absolute show throwing the football and you just can’t deny that they have been the best team of this preseason, I mean they’ve been spectacular.”
COLLINSWORTH ON CHICAGO: “I got a chance to see a much improved Chicago Bears defense, and that’s really what I focus on with the Bears. I think their offense is going to be good. I think their receivers are going to be fine. But their defense with Lovie [Smith] taking over control seems so much better.”
DUNGY ON THE BEST NFC NORTH TEAM: “I think Green Bay is probably going to come out of the chutes fast because they’ve got their quarterback that’s been there the longest. Cutler and Favre are great quarterbacks and they’ve got great talent, but they don’t have that same two-year window that Aaron Rogers has had working with his receivers. But then as the weather gets colder the defenses are going to take over and I think Chicago is going to have the best defense.”
HARRISON ON BRETT FAVRE: “Brett’s been in this game so long, and he is such a smart, intelligent football player — he’s so passionate about this game and he loves it. The one thing about football that I had to come to grips with is that your mind is always going to tell you can make that play but the hard part is getting your body to follow. You get to a point where at 21 your body is basically made of steel but once you get into the 30s and now your body is basically made up of glass. So there comes a point in time where you have to walk away like I did. Brett showed us flashes that he still can play and that he is very competitive, but mentally once he’s done after this season he’s going to really have to take a look and say you know what, is this in the best interest of my body, my mind, and my family? Do I continue to play this game or do I walk away?”
HARRISON ON REX RYAN’S COMMENTS ABOUT BILL BELICHICK: “When people make comments like that towards individual coaches or players, everyone takes offense. I don’t care what anyone says, you keep that quote in your mind and you put it up on a bulletin board. I don’t think that is going to make Belichick even more mad at him or make him hate the Jets more or for them to play harder, but the point of emphasis will be on that. He’s absolutely right that he shouldn’t go in there kissing Bill Belichick’s rings or anything like that, but I thought that was understood and really doesn’t need to be said out in public. I’m excited about this showdown, but I really don’t think they have what it takes to overtake Belichick and the Patriots.”
HARRISON ON REX RYAN: “If you come into the New York arena and you start predicting that you’re going to go to the Super Bowl, you’re raising expectations really, really high for a team that really hasn’t done much in the past 10 years. But I like the fact that he has confidence in his abilities.”
HARRISON ON NEW ENGLAND: “It comes down to number 12. It comes down to Tom Brady. If you look at what happened last year, Brady goes down and the Patriots are 11-5. They had a pretty good season in terms of everyone else in the league and they didn’t make the playoffs. If number 12 can stay healthy, the offense will put up 27, 28 points a game, the defense will give up 17, 18 points a game and the Patriots can end up being 12-4, maybe 13-3. If Tom Brady isn’t well and he’s not playing well coming off this knee injury then I think the Patriots will struggle.”
DUNGY ON BALTIMORE: “Losing Coach Ryan is going to be a blow and their going to have to make some adjustments because I don’t know that aggressiveness and cohesiveness they had on defense will be there especially early on.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF “NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” SCHEDULE
· All 12 NFL playoff teams from last season are featured.
· Fourteen of NBC’s 16 scheduled games involve at least one playoff team from last season.
· Giants at Cowboys opens the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium, “the 8th Wonder of the World.” It’s a rematch of the most viewed game ever on “Sunday Night Football.”
· Three appearances a piece from six marquee teams: this year’s Super Bowl champion Steelers, last year’s Super Bowl champion Giants plus Dallas, Indianapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia.
· Six games involving one of the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli.
· Quarterback duels between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Peyton and Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler.
· Four matchups among bitter NFC East rivals: Giants-Cowboys, Cowboys-Eagles, Eagles-Giants and Cowboys-Redskins.
· A rematch of last year’s hard-hitting AFC Championship game between Pittsburgh and Baltimore and last year’s AFC divisional playoff game between the Steelers and the Chargers.
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