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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

As NFL rosters change, so too do NFL broadcast booths

Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and analyst Cris Collinsworth

Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and analyst Cris Collinsworth speak onstage during NBC's "Sunday Night Football" panel discussion at the NBCUniversal portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 13, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Frederick M. Brown

The NFL has had its share of roster upheaval this offseason, from free-agent defections to marquee draft picks to the retirement of a certain future Hall of Famer / reigning Super Bowl champion quarterback.

And that was just on the field.

When it comes to the NFL, even developments involving the people who talk about the games are news, and few recent winters and springs have had this much of it.

The one big bang that did not go off was the aforementioned Peyton Manning joining the media fun.

Every network would have been thrilled to have him – with CBS being the most logical landing spot – but for now he has decided to stick to TV commercials rather than the football stuff that comes in between them.

The most intriguing ongoing saga has been the fallout from NBC’s hiring of Mike Tirico away from ESPN and “Monday Night Football” for a role that widely was assumed to include calling the Peacocks’ piece of the Thursday night package.

Al Michaels, still at the top of his game at 71, was not particularly interested in expanding his portfolio to Thursdays, where Tirico presumably was to be instated as the Sunday heir apparent. It all made sense.

Except for the fact the NFL believed NBC was contractually obligated to use its No. 1 announcing team on Thursday nights, as CBS has done with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

So, Michaels and Cris Collinsworth it shall be, because the NFL always gets what it wants from its TV partners.

NBC officially announced the particulars on Monday, which revealed a few additional wrinkles.

Michaels and Collinsworth will be joined on Thursdays by sideline reporter Heather Cox — Michele Tafoya will continue on Sundays — with Bob Costas as host of the nine NBC-produced Thursday games. Costas will be joined on-site by analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.

(Five of those Thursday games will be simulcast by NBC and the NFL Network; the other four will be NFLN exclusives.)

Tirico, meanwhile, will host the Sunday pregame show on-site, with Dan Patrick in NBC’s Stamford, Connecticut, studios, joined by Dungy and Harrison. (Costas and Tirico both will be on-site for the Sunday night opener between the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 11.)

But wait, there’s more: Tirico and Doug Flutie will call two of the four “Thursday Night Football” games that will be seen only on NFL Network because of what NBC called “schedule conflicts” for Michaels and Collinsworth.

The new Thursday schedule divides the series between CBS and NBC, with CBS getting the early season games. But NBC still has the NFL Kickoff on Sept. 8, a Super Bowl 50 rematch between the Panthers and Manning-less Broncos.

With Tirico gone from ESPN, Sean McDonough will take over “Monday Night Football” play-by-play duties alongside analyst Jon Gruden.

If all that sounded a bit complicated, what happened to ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” studio show was more straightforward:

Other than host Chris Berman, everyone who was on the main panel last year is gone.

Out: Tom Jackson (who stepped aside voluntarily after 29 years), Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson. Ray Lewis, who appeared on-site at Monday night games, also is gone.

In: Randy Moss, Matthew Hasselbeck, Trent Dilfer and Charles Woodson.

And Berman reportedly might leave himself after this season.

CBS will not bring back rules expert Mike Carey after two rocky seasons in which it become evident that the job is not as easy as Fox’s Mike Pereira has made it look since pioneering that role.


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