“It’s really the brilliance of the NFL and the great players and these great coaches that people tune in to see.” – Cris Collinsworth
“Now the pressure comes on him.” – Rodney Harrison on Michael Vick
NEW YORK – Aug. 30, 2011 – The NFL will open the regular season on NBC, Thursday, Sept. 8, with a matchup of the last two Super Bowl Champions as the Packers host the Saints from Green Bay’s Lambeau Field with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. The first “Sunday Night Football” game of the season matches the Jets and the Cowboys from Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Coverage starts with “Football Night in America” at 7 p.m. ET. The NFL season concludes on NBC with Super Bowl XLVI from Indianapolis.
NBC Sports today previewed the season on a conference call with “Sunday Night Football” duo Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth along with “Football Night in America” studio analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.
Highlights of the call follow:
MICHAELS ON THE EFFECT OF THE LOCKOUT ON TV RATINGS: “If anybody was concerned that there would be any after effects, and negatives, residual effects of the lockout, that was dispelled in our first game a couple of weeks ago – San Diego against Dallas. It wound up not only winning the night but was the No. 1 one show of the week. So the NFL is as hot as it’s ever been, and it remains that way and we put up pretty good numbers despite have the San Francisco Bay Area blacked out last week with the Oakland game. So, it’s very exciting.”
“We never really have a goal except to do the best job we can every year, but this year after winding up as the number one show in the fall overall, that’s what we want to do again because we’ve been threatened, Cris and I, from our bosses to be put on the waiver wire if we wind up as low as No. 2.”
COLLINSWORTH ON POPULARITY OF NFL: “It’s really the brilliance of the NFL and the great players and these great coaches that people tune in to see.”
COLLINSWORTH ON NFL KICKOFF MATCHUP: “We are absolutely thrilled with our opening weekend. To get Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, the past two Super Bowl winners, playing on that opening Thursday night; two teams that believe in passing first, passing second, and passing third, and putting up a lot of points. We got a chance to watch the Saints in preseason and they were absolutely razor sharp as has been Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.”
COLLINSWORTH ON OPENING “SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” GAME: “Rex Ryan against Rob Ryan on the defensive side with Dallas playing the Jets on the anniversary of 9/11, and we know that there’ll be a lot of mixed emotions for a lot of people as we reflect back on that. I’m sure the NFL will do a spectacular job in a very classy way of presenting that evening and that day of football. So really a lot to look forward to, not only great football, but a historic night as well in New York.”
DUNGY ON STARTING THE SEASON: “I’m just like everyone else, excited for the season, and glad that we’re playing football and about my third year here at NBC. I just really have come to appreciate the work that Fred (Gaudelli) and the guys do broadcasting the game. And just seeing it done in that quality is exciting. With the type of schedule we have, and I guess I can speak for Dan (Patrick) and everyone else on our show, we just really look forward to presenting what people do and just showing how great these NFL players and coaches are and giving a little insight.”
HARRISON ON SAINTS-PACKERS: “We get an opportunity to see how Green Bay plays out in terms of how they can handle success and everything that’s happened to them; how hungry they are; can they repeat? Drew Brees and the Saints losing, getting blown out in the playoffs last year by Seattle. I’m looking forward to it and I’m ready to go.”
DUNGY ON BROADCASTING: “I do see myself doing it for the long term. I really enjoy our group and have a lot fun. My comfort level, I would say my first year on a scale to 100 it was probably a 5, last year maybe 30, and I would say this year probably 75 to 80. Just being with Rodney and Dan over the last two years and we now kind of understand each other and how we like to do things, and who has a feel on certain things on the show and it’s just really been phenomenal. So I’m enjoying it tremendously. Hopefully I’m there a long time.”
ON MICHAEL VICK:
Dungy on new contract for Vick: “To me this makes it a success story for the Eagles; it was a success story to me from the very beginning. I thought Michael was a changed person. Philadelphia gave him a chance to be the third-team quarterback and he handled that well and did everything that he had determined that he was going to do. He’s been a leader on and off the field, and this contract makes it a feel-good thing, but really to me he has done what I hoped he would do two years ago. Now the on-the-field things, performing well and getting the nice contract, I think that’s great, but to me that was the icing on the cake.”
Collinsworth: “I would just add that the humility that he’s brought to the workplace was probably what impressed me most. Now I can’t speak to what it takes to come back from the off-the-field incident and the prison time that he served, but I know that it takes a certain humility to walk in a building and admit that my work ethic wasn’t where it was supposed to be, my study habits weren’t where they were supposed to be, my discipline in the pocket, my making the reads wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and to sort of just humble yourself professionally and that was what I found very very impressive about what he did.”
Harrison: “For me, seeing what Michael Vick has gone through and what he’s been through, and the way he’s handled it up until this point, I think it’s a fantastic story. However, I think now the pressure comes on him. Now, he has the contract, everything is going good in his life; can he keep the same humble spirit that he has, can he continue to avoid the negativity, that dark side off the field? Because now this is where the pressure comes; from his friends, from family members, from people out on the street, old people that he used to hang out with; the pressure comes now because they see the $100 million advertised on television. If he continues to lead down the same path then it really becomes a success story, but now is really where he’s going to be tested because he has the contract. When you have that, you have the tendency of kind of relaxing and putting your guard down. So hopefully he can continue to stay focused and not get caught up in the dark side.”
HARRISON ON ALBERT HAYNESWORTH: “Albert Haynesworth was a way of getting a guy in that was relatively inexpensive, a guy that was really on his last legs in the NFL, this is his last opportunity to be a productive pro. If it doesn’t work out I think the pressure is on Albert. If Belichick can’t straighten this guy out than no one can. So, I think he can be a very productive player but he will never be the player that he was in Tennessee. If it doesn’t work out then no one else will probably touch him, his career will be over.”
HARRISON ON PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY: “Belichick’s philosophy for a long time has been bend but don’t break; he knows he has an offense that can put up 30 points a game and he wants to hold you to field goals. He doesn’t really care if you go up and down the field on him.
HARRISON ON ANDY REID: “There’s a lot of pressure on Andy Reid because if he doesn’t win with this group of guys then people will start saying, ‘well they got the talent, can this guy get them to the next level, is he the guy to get them to the next level?’ I don’t think, a playoff win, a division win, a wild card win, or even and NFC Championship is good enough. They’ve been there. They’ve experienced that. They’ve tasted that, now it’s time to win a Super Bowl. You got Michael Vick, you traded Kevin Kolb, you have the guy under center that you want, you go out you get all these defensive backs and all these so called superstars to stop, in particular, Green Bay’s offense and these offenses that are high power like the Cowboys. You have everything you need, now it’s time to win a championship it’s time to produce.”
DUNGY ON TEAM CHEMISTRY: “A lot of times we got caught up with, ‘well this team got player ‘X’ and he’s better than player ‘Y’ and they added this player and he’s better than that player,’ and that’s not what wins games for you. What wins is everybody knowing their role, buying into the system, and doing their job and playing together. I remember when the Patriots beat us with Troy Brown playing defensive back. So I just think there’s a chemistry in the locker room, there’s something with continuity, and that’s not to say you can’t bring new players in, if the new players buy in to what you’re doing and they’re there for the right reason, then you’ve got a chance to be successful.”
ON THE NEW REPLAY RULE:
Michaels: “I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue because most of the scoring plays will not involve anything more than somebody looking at it upstairs and confirming what was called on the field. From time to time, you will see a delay, but what you would have seen in those circumstances anyway is probably a challenge from a coach. So you are going to have that delay to begin with, this takes that away and saves the coach from having to challenge the scoring. I think that’s good, and I think what you are going to see here is much ado about nothing. I don’t see it being a very big factor by the end of the year.”
Collinsworth: I do think you’ll see a couple of things a little different. One, the whole idea of did they cross the goal line or not? Something ordinarily that coaches wouldn’t challenge- is that something you want to challenge? Now we’re going to get a full look at that so we may see a few touchdowns brought back or maybe a few touchdowns added on. From a television standpoint, it takes a little pressure off of television people to feel obligated to get the replays bang, bang, bang up to the coaches to take a look at it. You may want to get a reaction shot from the quarterback jumping up and down or the head coaches doing a back flip or all the sort of TV-ish kind of things, as opposed to the entire obligation being on us to jam in all the replays possible so that the coaches can get a look at it.”
COLLINSWORTH ON CAM NEWTON: “A guy that, without question, is going to capture a lot of our attention is Cam Newton. The college game keeps presenting tremendous talent at the quarterback position that isn’t classic NFL style quarterback play. We just talked about Tebow a little bit, you’ve got Terrelle Pryor now, and you’ve got Cam Newton. Will there be that first sort of pure college quarterback type guy break through in the NFL and maybe open the door for some other guys; I think it’ll be interesting to follow.”
# # #
“SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” 2011 SEASON: Storied rivalries including Giants-Cowboys, Bears-Packers on Christmas Night at Lambeau, Colts-Patriots, Steelers-Ravens, Cowboys-Eagles, Patriots-Jets and Eagles-Giants; a matchup of the last two Super Bowl Champions as the Packers host the Saints in the opening Thursday night game; and Peyton Manning returning home to New Orleans in a Super Bowl XLV rematch highlight the “Sunday Night Football” schedule as the NFL announced its 2011 slate of games today. The season concludes on NBC with Super Bowl XLVI from Indianapolis.
Highlights of the 2011 “Sunday Night Football” schedule:
- Sixteen of NBC’s 17 scheduled games involve at least one playoff team from last season; 11 of 17 include two playoff teams.
- The last two Super Bowl Champions, Saints and Packers, meet in the Thursday night NFL opening game.
- A rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game between the Packers and Bears on Christmas Night in Green Bay, the oldest rivalry in the NFL. The only other time Bears-Packers met on Christmas Day was in 2005 with the Bears winning 24-17 at Lambeau Field.
- Peyton Manning goes home to New Orleans as Saints host Colts in Week 7 in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIV.
- Rex Ryan’s Rivals: Meets brother Rob (Dallas defensive coordinator) and the Cowboys in Week 1 in New York on the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001; Ryan faces his old team, the Ravens in Week 4; and his nemesis the Patriots in Week 10, in a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional playoff game.
- Three matchups among bitter NFC East rivals: Cowboys-Eagles, Eagles-Giants, and Giants-Cowboys.
- Eagles QB Michael Vick goes back to Atlanta to face his former team for the first time as an opposing starting quarterback in Week 2.
- Traditional “Sunday Night Football” rivalries: Colts-Patriots (Week 13), Ravens-Steelers (Week 9).
- The first “NBC Sunday Night Football” trip to Kansas City as Chiefs host Steelers in Week 12.
2011 “SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” SCHEDULE
Thurs. Sept. 8 NFL Kickoff New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
Sun. Sept. 11 Week 1 Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
Sun. Sept. 18 Week 2 Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
Sun. Sept. 25 Week 3 Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts
Sun. Oct. 2 Week 4 New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
Sun. Oct. 9 Week 5 Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
Sun. Oct. 16 Week 6 Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Sun. Oct. 23 Week 7 Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints
Sun. Oct. 30 Week 8 Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Sun. Nov. 6 Week 9 Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun. Nov. 13 Week 10 New England Patriots at New York Jets
Sun. Nov. 20 *Week 11 Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Sun. Nov. 27 *Week 12 Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
Sun. Dec. 4 *Week 13 Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Sun. Dec. 11 *Week 14 New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sun. Dec. 18 *Week 15 Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers
Sun. Dec. 25 *Week 16 Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Sun. Jan. 1 *Week 17 TBA
“FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA”: ‘Football Night,’ which enjoyed its best viewership ever last season averaging 8.3 million viewers, begins NBC’s NFL coverage every Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
SNF DOMINATED SUNDAY NIGHTS: Last season, “Sunday Night Football” was the No. 1 show all 18 nights (100 percent) vs. its competition (16 Sundays, one Tuesday and one Thursday). In 2009, SNF was the most-watched Sunday night primetime broadcast in a then-record 15 of 16 (94 percent) weeks. In 2008, SNF won 13 of 16 (81 percent) Sunday nights. In 2007, SNF won 11 of 16 (69 percent) and, in 2006, SNF won nine of 16 (56 percent).
For the full season, “Sunday Night Football” averaged 21.8 million viewers, a gain of 12 percent from 2009 (19.4 million) and the best viewership for the NFL’s premier primetime broadcast package in 14 years.
SNF NO. 1 PRIMETIME PROGRAM FOR SEASON: For the fall primetime television season, “Sunday Night Football,” during its season, ranked as the most-watched show (persons 2+) and the No. 1 program across the key demographics of Adults 18-49, 18-34, 25-54 as well as Men 18-49, 18-34 and 25-54, based on Nielsen live + same day data. Additionally, SNF was the No. 3 show among Women 18-34 behind only Grey’s Anatomy and Glee, and, remarkably, No. 3 among Women 18-49 behind only Dancing with the Stars and Grey’s Anatomy.
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