NFL fans wondering when ESPN’s Dianna Russini would return to her coverage of the league got an answer over the weekend. Russini has been on maternity leave since the summer but is back on the NFL beat starting on Nov. 14.
Russini and her husband celebrated the birth of their first child this year, and she has been documenting the journey on her Substack, The Diary of NFL Insider Dianna Russini.
Russini broke the news on the site and revealed some wise words her friend and fellow ESPN reporter, Jeff Darlington, told her.
“Someone in the business texted me when Michael was about 7 weeks old,” Russini wrote. “Saying, ‘You ever coming back to work or you just milking this thing?’ The anxiety started to creep in. I texted Jeff [Darlington] that maybe I made a mistake taking my full paid maternity leave. My head was telling me at the time my reputation as a hard-working reporter was tarnishing by the day. Jeff responded immediately from a plane as he headed home from a game: ‘The sh*t I did at work yesterday is 1,000 times less important to the world than the shit you did with Michael yesterday. Stop.’ I smiled. He was right. So after three months of recovering from labor, raising my baby, learning all about motherhood, I’m so excited to share that I am returning to television on November 14.”
Russini figures to pick up right where she left off from last season’s coverage. She is a regular contributor to Sunday NFL Countdown, Fantasy Football Now, SportsCenter, Get Up, and ESPN Radio.
The reporter also signed a fresh contract with ESPN while on maternity leave.
“It’s such a special time to be covering the NFL,” Russini said in a press release. “There’s no better place to be doing it than at ESPN. I’m thrilled to be part of such a talented team—and I’m excited about the years to come.”
Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII
“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”
The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.
Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.
Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.
Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.
Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.