New NFL training camp preps players for careers in broadcasting Print
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Friday, 22 June 2007 08:12
NFL Headline News

 MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) -How do you make a 300-pound NFL lineman nervous? Ask him to trade his shoulder pads for a tie, put him behind an anchor's desk and tell him he's on the air.
Welcome to a different kind of NFL training camp: Boot camp for players who want to become broadcasters after their playing days end.
For men whose lives have revolved around physical gifts and skills they have honed since boyhood - in some cases, they've have never had to apply for a job - the camp represents a taste of the real world, possibly a hint of things to come.
``As a football player, you believe in yourself,'' said Tim Hasselbeck, a backup quarterback for the New York Giants. ``You think you're qualified to be doing what you're doing.''
Like the other players, Hasselbeck is fluent in football speak, like ``cover-2 defense'' and ``seam route.'' But broadcast terms like ``b-roll'' and ``roll cue'' aren't often uttered in the huddle.
``I'm back in Pop Warner now,'' Hasselbeck said. One of the smoother wannabe broadcasters, his wife, Elisabeth, works in television as a host on ``The View.''
The four-day camp this week at the NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel was a new effort by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to prepare players for the inevitable: life after football.
The average NFL career lasts only about four years. And even the superstars who stay in the league for a decade and rake in millions of dollars are usually done by sometime in their 30s.
``No matter how much money you make, you still have 50-plus years (after football),'' said Michael Haynes, a Hall of Fame player who is now the league's vice president of player development.
The broadcasting seminar is the latest of several league initiatives for helping players get ready for those years. The league also pays for college courses, offers seminars at top business schools and gets recent retirees coaching opportunities in NFL Europa. It also arranges offseason internships for players in other businesses.
In many ways, broadcasting is a natural step for ex-athletes.
The players know the sport. And they know the other people in the game (``the fraternity,'' they call it), which means they might have better luck getting calls returned than non-athletes.
And while there aren't nearly as many jobs for broadcasters as there are for players, it is a growing field, thanks to the NFL's own 24-hour television network and the round-the-clock NFL channel on Sirius satellite radio.
Broadcasting also offers athletes a chance to stay around the sport they love. That's why Ike Reese, who says his playing career is probably finished after nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, wants to get into broadcasting.
At broadcast boot camp, there's one lesson he learned first: ``It's a lot harder than it looks.''
Like the other players at the camp, Reese studied film of a key play from a playoff game last year, making note of why an Indianapolis Colts receiver was wide open. That was the easy part.
Then, the players had to sit under the harsh TV lights and explain it to CBS studio anchor James Brown - one of the big-name broadcasters teaching at the camp. They had about a minute to make the key points and stay in sync with the videos they were talking about while remembering to look at the camera at the right time, have scripted remarks but not sound like they were reading them.
At one point, Reese got so flustered he slapped a stack of papers against his forehead.
As long as football has been televised, there have been ex-players analyzing it on the air. Some of them - think Joe Montana - got jobs on the strength of their football credentials, but did not last long in the booth.
Brian Baldinger, who played offensive line for three teams in the 1980s and early 1990s, has become one of the best-regarded game analysts.
He and other instructors stressed that preparation is the key to being a successful broadcaster.
Baldinger said he didn't realize how much work it would take to succeed. As rough as some of the players were at the boot camp, at least they know the challenge they face.
Lional Dalton, a 300-pound defensive lineman who has had radio shows in Kansas City, Denver and Baltimore and is now weighing whether to keep playing, struggled through his on-camera bit with Brown.
Afterward, he said he'll probably stick with radio. He'd rather be heard than seen when talking about sports.
``I'm a huge sweater,'' explained Dalton, who is known as a locker room cutup. ``It's always hot on stage.''
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