“We got a cliffhanger!” NBC Sports analyst Chris Collinsworth said at the TCA Summer Press Tour session for Sunday Night Football. “We don’t know what’s going to happen on opening night!”
With the season kickoff set for September 10 between the Pittsburgh Steelers at the defending champion New England Patriots, Collinsworth of course is referring to the current four-game suspension for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the wake of his Deflategate and Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell, who received a two-game suspension over a year-old DUI and drug arrest.
And despite all the pooh-pooh that the NFL has faced with its players, most notoriously former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s third-degree aggravated assault on his then-fiance-now wife in an elevator, the trio at today’s TCA panel — NBC Sunday Night Football coordinating producer Fred Gaudelli, play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and Collinsworth — say everything is coming up roses when it comes to the pigskin league. Gaudelli pointed to the 11M viewers who tuned in to the preseason-kickoff Hall of Fame Game on Sunday between the Steelers and Minnesota Vikings.
“Do people stop watching rock bands when they get arrested?” retorted Michaels over the notion that the NFL’s brand has been tarnished, then adding, “We still don’t know if Tom Brady is playing opening night.”
Collinsworth’s take on Brady’s dilemma: “I don’t know if anyone recovers from this. It will spill into the beginning of the new season.”
Gaudelli added, “If the current penalty holds up, it would be Week 6 when the Patriots face off with the Colts.” The Patriots have a bye in Week 5.
Collinsworth further added his Monday-morning quarterbacking on Deflategate: “There were a lot of mistakes made. The referees let the balls out of the locker room. There was (the scenario with) Tom Brady’s cell phone. There are questions about the footballs going into the game. The bottom line is, where is the compromise? I don’t know. Will it be ‘Tom Brady cheated the game’? And if he didn’t, the NFL is embarrassed in tainting the legacy of this great player. … The judge in this case wants both sides to settle, and there’s no settlement.”
One reporter raised the question to the panel about John Oliver’s observation that most new stadiums are built with taxpayer money. Michaels mentioned that while that was the case in Cleveland with the Browns when they threatened to hike to Baltimore, more often new stadiums are built using a combination of private equity and public money. Michaels cited the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxborough as being built with private money and a proposed new NFL stadium in Carson, CA, being backed by private dough.
In regards to the Los Angeles market getting an NFL team back after the Rams and Raiders fled two decades ago, Michaels said “it’s now closer than ever” to happening. The two teams exited the market due to the dilapidated local stadiums.