What began as an intriguing idea as TV networks seek new ways to boost ratings on NFL games has drawn criticism from a general manager who fears that having an active player around could result in a competitive disadvantage for his team at a critical time next month.
With the Carolina Panthers on a bye this week, tight end Greg Olsen will work the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. That’s problematic in Minnesota because the Vikings and Panthers play in what could be an important NFC game on Dec. 10 and, although the Rams and Panthers don’t play in the regular season, there’s always the chance that they could meet in the NFC playoffs, which concerns Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman.
Spielman told the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that Olsen’s presence in the booth was “inappropriate” and the team asked to have Olsen assigned to a different game on Fox, a request that was denied. Instead, Olsen will not have access to production meetings or Vikings walk-throughs, as broadcasters typically do. Olsen is presently out with a foot injury, but could return for the Dec. 10 game.
“The notion that I’m going to gain an unfair advantage is crazy,” Olsen said Wednesday. “We have scouts at every game across the league. I’m going to have enough trouble on my hands broadcasting a game, let alone looking for little nuances on the sideline. I don’t know how much time I’ll have for stealing of secrets.”
In a statement to the NFL Network, Fox said that it would “limit the amount of pregame access.”
Olsen told USA Today that there was never a plan for him to be in meetings. “From the beginning we had no false notions that I would be in production meetings, meeting with players or coaches. We never would,” he said. “I understand where everyone is coming from, but these are things we thought through.”
He added that his approach won’t be unlike that of watching game film.
“I don’t know if the Vikings still do but the way we think about it — nothing I’m going to see from that booth a million miles in the sky is any different than what we would see on a game film. I’m going to watch that Rams-Vikings game a hundred times between now and then, getting ready to play them. Whether I see it live from the same angle or see it on film, I don’t think there’s really too much advantage that I or the Panthers would have.”
This isn’t the first time an active player has sat in on a broadcast. Matt Hasselbeck, while quarterback of the Colts in 2014, called a Rams-Cardinals game and Marcus Allen, then with the Chiefs, broadcast a Lions-Buccaneers game in 1994. However, their teams did not face those teams during those seasons.
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