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James Hibberd

NBC’s New Night of Football

July 22, 2006 5:59 PM

NBC Sports and Olypics Chairman Dick Ebersol was the most casual press tour panelist Saturday morning, sporting shorts and a polo shirt at the "Football Night in America" session. But he informal dress contrasted wtih his command of the conversation with critics. Ebersol explained that NBC only agreed to broadcast prime-time NFL games on the condition they'd be Sunday contests. The network didn't want to overrun into "The Tonight Show" and wanted to take advantage of the four hours of prime time on Sundays and the opportunity to get West Coast viewers to watch the whole game.

One critic asked analyst John Madden what his thoughts were on the his career now that he's turned 70 and is about to be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.

"I went from a player to a coach to a broadcaster," he said. "Never worked a day in my life. Seventy years of recess in a locker room."

Another critic asked the panel about the impact that NFL players who have had run-ins with the law have on the game.

Teams are getting more interested in "character players and are becoming less likely to pick up troublesome athletes, said former Pittsburgh Steeler and NBC analyst Jerome Bettis.

Madden wasn't buying all the league happy talk.

"If you can still play, someone is going to give them a job," he said.


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