Wednesday, prior to the final two days of the NFL preseason schedule, NFL on FOX lead game analyst Troy Aikman, FOX NFL Sunday analysts Jimmy Johnson and Michael Strahan along with FOX Sports Media Group Co-President Eric Shanks participated in a conference call previewing the upcoming 2011 season.
The group talked about the challenges facing the Green Bay Packers in repeating as Super Bowl champions, the strength of the NFC South, starting rookie quarterbacks early, and how social media, especially Twitter, has changed how the NFL is covered in real time, among other subjects.
The below partial transcript was supplied by FOX Sports PR.
JIMMY JOHNSON ON THE CHALLENGES OF TRYING TO REPEAT AS SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: “The downfall of successful organizations is that it’s about the individual and not the team and organization. You know the pitfalls before you go into the season and hopefully you can avoid that. Everybody says, ‘what about me? Give me more money. Give me more accolades. Give me more publicity. Give me more of everything. That hurts the team concept.”
TROY AIKMAN ON THE COWBOYS DYNASTY HE PLAYED FOR: “The players we had in Dallas were for the most part not as selfish as people outside of our organization may have thought. None of our players had enjoyed any level of success without the others. Michael Irvin was drafted the year ahead of me, then I came in and Emmitt was the following year. We were able to recognize that we had success because of each other.”
MICHAEL STRAHAN ON THE PERCEPTION THAT LIONS DT NDAMUKONG SUH IS A DIRTY PLAYER: “I don’t think Suh is a dirty player at all. He’s talented, he’s aggressive and he’s had some penalties but that doesn’t make him dirty. He’s just a guy that sets the tone for not only the defense, but for that team. Detroit could intimidate some people. Before, a lot of teams looked at Detroit as just a team to get in and get out without anybody getting hurt and get your victory and now you know you’re in for a fight. A guy like Suh is one of the reasons for that. He has the motor and the mindset that you wish Albert Haynesworth had. You know the talent is limitless but you just have to have the heart and the right attitude to use it to the best of your abilities and that’s what Suh does.”
JOHNSON ON THE STRENGTH OF THE NFC SOUTH: “The division is so competitive. The Saints and the Falcons both will be extremely strong. If you look at the entire league, what we’re going to find out in the early part of the season is that because we didn’t have offseason programs and mini-camps, the veteran teams and the teams that retained their coaches will be much stronger than some of the other teams early in the season. Veteran teams, especially the Saints and the Falcons will be much better. It’s a two team race in the NFC South as far as I’m concerned.”
AIKMAN ON PEYTON MANNING & HIS NECK INJURY: “Knowing Peyton, my guess is he’ll play Week 1. I don’t know that anybody ever expects Peyton Manning not to come out and play at an awfully high level. I think the consecutive game streak, as much as he has accomplished, is probably more meaningful to him than anything outside of winning a Super Bowl. So I would guess he’ll play and I think he’ll play really well.”
STRAHAN ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF RAMS DE CHRIS LONG: “I think the world of Chris Long. Steve Spagnuolo is a good coach for Chris because he’s the type of coach that gives his players the ability to make a play. You have to overcome your coaching, as they say. Things aren’t always going to work out like they would in a play book and Spag’s gives you the opportunity to kind of ‘fudge’ on it a little bit as long as you can make something happen. Chris’ first year was a little mechanical but so is everyone’s because you’re trying to learn how to play in this league. He is surrounded by great veteran leaders in the locker room and more familiar with the defensive end system that Spag’s has set up. Chris is in the right position with the right type of coach to have a big season.”
AIKMAN ON STARTING ROOKIE QBS EARLY: “Every situation is a little different as every player is a little bit different. Playing quarterback today is harder than it’s ever been. Yet, we’re seeing more young quarterbacks having success than ever before. When I came into the league in 1989, the only guy who had any measurable success as a rookie was Dan Marino. Since that time, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez all had success. The bar is so high for these young quarterbacks because teams are being asked to make a decision on whether a player can become a franchise quarterback much sooner in their careers than they ever had to make them before.”
ERIC SHANKS ON USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR ON-AIR ELEMENTS: “We’ve talked about it a lot. Should Twitter essentially be a sideline reporter? Can you implement a system where reporters covering a different angle are tweeting during the game? We’re going to monitor it and see over the first few weeks what it would’ve added something to the broadcast before we implement it.”
AIKMAN ON USING INFORMATION ON TWITTER DURING A BROADCAST, LIKE WHEN PLAYERS QUESTIONED JAY CUTLER’S INJURY DURING THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: “There’s no way as an analyst you can weigh on the status of a player or how severe the injury is. As soon as you do that, it comes out the next day that he has a torn ACL. Based on the reaction, I thought it spoke to his popularity or lack of, amongst the other players in the league. There are plenty of players that could’ve happened to and I don’t think a lot would’ve been said. For anyone to say he should’ve been back in the game, I still don’t know what his knee felt like or what he could’ve done. Even if Twitter is blowing up saying he should be playing, it’s not my place to reference it.”
In addition, FOX revealed the animated broadcast open for the 2011 season, featuring the NFL on FOX robot Cleatus (@CLEATUSonFOX on Twitter) and his friends.