NBC Brings Hines Ward Aboard

You can say Hines Ward is quite happy about his new gig as an NFL analyst for NBC. He'll start on "Football Night In America" on September 9, right before the team he retired from, the Pittsburgh Steelers, takes on the Denver Broncos.

After playing his entire NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hines Ward has been drafted by a new team: NBC.

Ward, the wide receiver who played for fourteen years in Pittsburgh before calling it a career in March, will be starting his retirement from football the way many notable NFL players do: by becoming an NFL analyst. He’ll serve in that capacity, and much more, as part of a new contract with NBC Sports.

In what is being described as a “multi-year agreement,” Ward will not only appear regularly on the network’s marquee NFL highlights program, “Football Night In America,” he will also get plenty of face time on NBC’s cable property, NBC Sports Network, serving as an analyst on a weekly college football program on Saturdays (what are the odds that it’ll be called “College Football Night In America”?), and show up on the nightly “NBC Sports Talk” program for several days during the week.

Ward’s appearance during NBC’s 76-hour Super Bowl XLVI pregame show this year (it was actually six hours, but the singing NBC actors made it seem like 76) was an apparent audition for a regular spot on NBC’s NFL team. “I am really excited,” said Ward in a statement released by NBC. “It’s not every day that you get the chance to work for a powerhouse like the NBC Sports Group.” [It’s also not every day that popular athletes, let alone regular people, randomly refer to NBC Sports Group.]

“It is a big honor for me and I am looking forward to making the most of this great opportunity.”

And a timely one at that: when Ward reports for duty on “Football Night” for the first time on September 9, it will be prior to kickoff of his old team squaring off against Peyton Manning and his new team, the Broncos. The Steelers are also scheduled to play division rivals on NBC in Weeks 7 and 11, with the latter week carrying the possibility of being flexed – but with Week 11 being Ravens/Steelers, if I were a betting person, I’d bank on that one airing on NBC as scheduled.

Ward follows in the footsteps of another beloved Steelers legend, Jerome Bettis. The running back also joined NBC as an analyst upon his retirement, and became a member of the initial “Football Night” cast of characters. However, after three years, NBC decided that “the Bus” stopped there, and did not renew their contract with Bettis. In fact, it was after the 2009 season that NBC removed Bettis and Tiki Barber as “Football Night” analysts, replacing them with Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, who are expected to remain in those roles, even as NBC brings Ward aboard in 2012.

This is the second of two big NBC hires this month, and I’ll tell you why: they’re investing in one individual for being a regular on “Football Night In America” among other contributions in the sports arena (Ward); while in Michelle Beadle, they’re hiring someone to cover some sports and some entertainment criteria. See, NBC made a big mistake when they hired one person – Tiki Barber – to do both. It failed, miserably, and with these dual hires, they realize that.

You would have to think that WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh, is particularly proud that Hines Ward will now be part of the station’s on-air network personnel. I just hope they didn’t show him in a Ravens uniform when they broke the news.

"Hard Knocks" Goes Fish

The Miami Dolphins will be in the spotlight for the 2012 edition of "Hard Knocks." This despite vehement pleas from the Jacksonville Jaguars to be featured on the show this year. Shown is Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert from last year's training activities.

It’s official: there will be an NFL team from Florida featured in the 2012 edition of “Hard Knocks.”

Unfortunately for the Jaguars – and fortunately, for virtually everybody else – it’s not the Jaguars.

Instead, HBO Sports and NFL Films will be taking their talents from South Beach, as the Miami Dolphins have agreed to let the “Hard Knocks” crew roll cameras at their training facility in Davie, FL this year. Dolphins training camp will likely start in the final weekend of July. The first episode of the Dolphin-flavored “Hard Knocks” is set to bow Tuesday, August 7, with the season scheduled to conclude on September 4, the eve of the “kickoff game” of the 2012 NFL season between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

The Miami Dolphins will be the fifth AFC franchise to be featured on “Hard Knocks.” The Cowboys, who have made two appearances, are the lone NFC team to be on the program. The show was idle for four years between 2003 and 2006, and the 2011 edition was canceled due to the lockout.

The Dolphins will follow their division rival New York Jets on the succession of teams appearing on “Hard Knocks.” After rampant speculation that the Jets would appear on the show for a second consecutive season – speculation fueled by the fact that owner Woody Johnson showed interest in returning to the show – the team ultimately withdrew consideration for being featured on the 2012 version, citing concentration on a new offensive scheme drawn up by their new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano – who was the head coach of the Dolphins until late last year.

So what does it tell you that a Miami Dolphins team, which ranked 22nd in total yards and 23rd in passing yards in a 2011 campaign in which their top quarterback barely missed breaking the 2,500-yard plateau, and with a rookie head coach in Joe Philbin (whose rap sheet suggests he’s far from a rookie) would be an appealable choice for “Hard Knocks” in 2012? It tells you that the Dolphins are far more appealable than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked dead last in both of the aforementioned categories last year.

You recall the Jaguars were the most vocal franchise jockeying for inclusion in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” games this year. Yet all the while, HBO has rebuffed their advances, opting for a team in a larger market, as opposed to a team in the Jaguars that regularly has had home games blacked out due to low ticket sales. Yet even the Dolphins – whose home sellout streak of over 100 games dates back to the Dan Marino and Oronde Gadsden team of 1998 that played at Pro Player Stadium – were flirting with potential blackouts of their own last season, only to open up the war chest and end up purchasing the remaining unsold tickets, guaranteeing the games could at least be seen locally in Miami.

And when rumors of your possible relocation to Los Angeles are spontaneously brewing, that also doesn’t bode well for a club hoping to be featured on “Hard Knocks” (though they more or less won’t be going anywhere until we elect a 46th President).

Currently, the most recognizable face of the franchise, Maurice Jones-Drew, has skipped organized team activities in Jacksonville, and while it’s not the first time that’s happened, he’s reportedly unhappy that he has not received a contract extension. Which means MoJo might hold out. If you thought the idea of the Jaguars on “Hard Knocks” was far-fetched, watching “Hard Knocks” with the Jaguars minus Maurice Jones-Drew would be like watching “Perfect Strangers” without Balki. (In fact, it might be just like watching “Perfect Strangers.”)

And, oh yeah, they were ranked 32nd of 32 teams in two yardage categories.

No surprise why, when the Jaguars were pining to be on “Hard Knocks,” HBO covered their ears and screamed, “La-la-la, I can’t hear you, la-la-la, I’m not listening.”

At least they weren’t listening to the Jaguars. Even after teams like the Broncos and the Falcons and even the Jets spurned the show, they were determined to find a suitor by Friday. By comparison, when the Jets were announced as the team in the previous edition of “Hard Knocks,” it was in the final week of March 2010.

March.

Easter, Memorial Day and “The Hunger Games” weren’t going to wait for a team other than the Jaguars to agree to be featured on “Hard Knocks” in 2012.

Should we feel sorry for the Jaguars and their fans, who in spite of their fervent attempt to invite HBO cameras into their training camp, were left standing at the altar? Absolutely.

But at the same time, should we vilify HBO for ignoring the Jaguars in order to make a good business decision for the network, “Hard Knocks” and the NFL?

As Balki might say: Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.

15 Years After: The Marv Albert Arrest

It was fifteen years ago today, May 27, that sports broadcaster Marv Albert was arraigned on sexual assault charges. This post chronicles his comeback since his firing from NBC upon pleading guilty to assault charges (the sodomy charge, a felony, was dropped as a result of the plea deal).

May 27, 1997. A day that would greatly impact Marv Albert’s broadcasting career.

Fifteen years later, it’s as if Marv Albert never missed a beat.

It was fifteen years ago today that Albert was arrested amid allegations that he had bitten a female acquaintance on the back several times, allegations of which he initially pleaded not guilty on this day in 1997. He was officially indicted for charges of forcible sodomy, as well as assault, on May 19 of that year.

The charges stemmed from a tryst with Vanessa Perhach, whom Albert had known for ten years, and who had maintained a friendship of a mostly sexual nature, on the night of February 11, 1997. Perhach accused Albert that night of throwing her on a bed in a Virginia hotel room, sodomizing her, and biting her on the back up to 15 times, among other allegations. DNA tests would eventually link Albert not only to a bite mark on Perhach’s back, but semen collected from her skin and underwear. Yet the trial would commence on September 22 of that year.

Albert, who never testified during his trial, would eventually admit at his sentencing hearing that their sexual activities were “consensual” and that biting was a “normal” procedure. “I didn’t realize until her testimony that she felt she was harmed by it,” Albert said in court. “For that, I am sorry.”

There is a theory that the motive for Perhach to even pursue the criminal lawsuit against Albert in the first place was because after a decade of carnal collaborations, he decided that he was going to settle down with Heather Faulkiner, a producer at ESPN, and that didn’t sit well with Perhach.

Following jaw-dropping – or, if you prefer, hair-raising – testimony from a surprise witness, Hyatt Hotels concierge Patricia Masten, who recalled a night in Dallas in 1994, in which she saw Albert dressed in women’s underwear, and an awkward moment that came about when she rejected his biting advances (“I went to grab his hair, and his hair lifted off”), Albert decided to enter a plea agreement and end the trial after four days. “I just felt I needed to end this ordeal,” he said afterward outside the courthouse.

The sodomy charge, a felony, which could have possibly led to life in prison for Albert had a jury found him guilty, was dropped. But not before Albert pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor assault and battery charges.

Albert’s guilty plea led to his subsequent firing by NBC, ending a twenty-year relationship with the network, in which he called not only NBA games, but NFL and Major League Baseball games, as well as college basketball contests and NHL All-Star Games. Albert also ended up resigning from his duties at MSG Network, terminating an even longer business relationship with Madison Square Garden dating back to 1966, when he became the radio play-by-play voice of the New York Rangers.

Though he faced punishments of a year in jail and a fine of $2,500, the judge in the trial said that Albert can deter a prison term, so long as he maintains counseling and stays out of trouble.

And so, for the next eleven months, Marv Albert would not only stay out of trouble, but out of the limelight. It helped that his good friend-turned-plaintiff, Vanessa Perhach, never filed a civil lawsuit, which was speculated as a possibility, but never materialized. In fact, it’s as if she dropped off the face of the earth. I’ll admit I’ve had no luck in attempting to reach her for a comment on this post – though in fairness, I would certainly understand if she chose not to.

The road back to broadcasting for Marv Albert began September 14, 1998 – five days after he tied the knot with his fiancee, Heather Faulkiner, and just two weeks shy of a year since his simultaneous firing from NBC and his resignation at MSG Network. It was on this day that Albert resumed work for MSG, serving as anchor for “SportsDesk,” the network’s local version of “SportsCenter.” It was the first time he’s worked solo since his days as sports director at NBC’s flagship station in New York City, WNBC-TV, a post which he’d serve for thirteen years starting in 1975.

But before long, Albert would once again be calling Knicks games alongside John Andariese – just like they used to, starting in the early 1970’s. Though rather than calling plays on MSG television, Albert would be delivering game action on the Knicks radio network, which is operated by MSG. (It was at this point that Hall of Fame Knick Walt “Clyde” Frazier, a man of many words and just as many suits, had transitioned from the radio side to television.)

Albert’s first day back in the booth was February 7, 1999, calling the Knicks/Heat contest from Madison Square Garden. It was the Knicks’ home opener in a lockout-shortened season. (The Knicks would make the playoffs as the eighth seed and go all the way to the NBA Finals, losing to the San Antonio Spurs. Meanwhile, the Spurs appear quite dominant in this current lockout-shortened season… deja vu?)

Roughly one week after Albert started his new chapter in play-by-play, Turner Sports added him to their payroll to call NBA games on TNT. What started as a half-dozen game assignment on TNT in April 1999 would expand to 25 the following season.

At the time of his hiring by Turner Sports, Albert was quoted as saying, “I’m so happy with this situation. I don’t know what’s in store down the road.”

Clearly, he didn’t. NBC, the network that severed ties with Albert in the wake of his guilty plea to assault, announced that they would be rehiring him, just twenty-one months after firing him, a task that then-NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said the network “had to do” at the time. “But Marv did what he had to do in the interim,” Ebersol explained to the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman in 1999. “He worked hard dealing with all aspects of his life.”

The fact that Albert, who for years had been the No. 1 NBA play-by-play man at NBC, was rejoining the network as their No. 3 guy did not make any difference to him. “I’m just happy to be back. The No. 1 announcer thing is not even a factor.”

It was to Bob Costas. The NBC veteran, who was thrust into the lead NBA play-by-play role by the network after axing Albert, decided that he would give up calling NBA games on NBC, in order to concentrate on a new HBO series, “On The Record With Bob Costas” – thus once again making Albert the network’s de facto No. 1 play-by-play voice. Admitting he could have easily balanced his “NBA on NBC” and HBO jobs, he chose to step away from the game of basketball because “it was time for Marv to come back.

“There’s a difference between doing something well and someone so closely identified with basketball as Marv is.”

Other than his Turner Sports employment, there would be no difference between his workload before the sexual assault charges in 1997 and after, as MSG Network would return Albert to the television side of Knicks broadcasts after working two years of Knicks games on radio.

Though he was not finished with radio at that point. In 2002, he signed on as the play-by-play announcer for the radio broadcasts of “Monday Night Football” on Westwood One Radio (now known as Dial Global Radio). Once again, he would be regularly broadcasting games for two different sports, just as he was for NBC up until 1997.

2002 would also serve as the final year that NBC would air NBA games. It was that year that ABC became the league’s new broadcast partner, a relationship that still exists today (though mostly made possible by ABC corporate brother ESPN). It would again mark the end of Albert’s tenure at NBC, albeit with far less fanfare than his ouster in September 1997.

2002 was also the year he and his TNT boothmate Mike Fratello were injured in a horrific accident, when the driver of the limousine they were sleeping in had made contact with a Dunkin’ Donuts truck on I-295 near Trenton. And it couldn’t have happened at a worse time: the NBA playoffs were due to start in hours. Recovering from his injuries from the accident, Albert returned to action calling a Western Conference Semifinials game; subbing for him during the quarterfinal round assignments was his old friend, Bob Costas.

While the auto accident hardly rattled him, Albert had become personally rattled by the seemingly inept play of the New York Knicks. The 2003-04 season, which saw a coaching change and another clinching of the eighth seed in the playoffs – though it would be a completely different journey than the 1999 campaign, as they were swept by the Nets in the first round – would prove to be the last season that Albert would call Knicks games. “It stopped being enjoyable for me, and I decided to move on.” So marked the end of an era – some 35 years starting in 1967 – as Albert mutually parted ways with MSG Network.

While not taking for granted the fact that he’s gained two regular gigs after having to start over six years earlier, Albert hoped that something would come along to fill the Knicks void.

Enter a network synonymous with Albert’s trademark call: YES.

The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network had approached Albert about becoming the new lead announcer for New Jersey Nets games “and [I] just had to listen.” YES Network president Tracy Dolgin was adamant in hiring Albert. “It’s like getting the greatest basketball player. You do it,” he said in March 2005, when the network named YES officially hired the announcer who redefined the word, “Yes!”

And with the 2005-06 season, the Nets would be the local complement in Marv Albert’s trifecta of broadcasts, the others being national NBA telecasts on TNT, and “Monday Night Football” on radio. It would continue through the remainder of the 2000’s. Hard to believe that this was the same Marv Albert that was kicked to the curb by NBC after two decades of service, and having to step down from MSG Network after thirty years. (As an added bonus, Albert would be reunited with Fratello when he signed with YES Network in 2008.)

In 2010, roughly a week shy of his 69th birthday, Albert seemed as if he would start to scale back his tasks, as he abruptly announced his departure from “Monday Night Football” radio broadcasts after eight seasons. Earlier that year, his primary employer, Turner Sports, entered into a new multi-year, multi-platform deal with CBS to air the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament. March of the following year would once again find Albert calling college basketball games during the early rounds of “March Madness.”

Then in 2011, roughly a week shy of his 70th birthday, Albert announced that he would be relinquishing Nets play-by-play on YES Network – no, he had no harsh criticisms about their underachieving play – in order to accept a position at CBS calling regional NFL games. Incidentally, the job offer came at some point during his NCAA work for CBS and Turner. And while he admitted the NFL role “wasn’t something I was looking for,” not only does it return him to the familiar territory of calling football games on Sunday afternoons, but it’s got to be far more appealing than calling Nets games – or for that matter, Knicks games.

So, let’s review: After losing two prime announcing gigs as a result of sexual assault charges fifteen years ago, Marv Albert immediately gained them back, and then some. What if he never entered the plea bargain, and the trial dragged out with perhaps even more sordid stories about his life off the air – and inside women’s underwear? Can you fathom CBS or Turner hiring him, let alone NBC and MSG rehiring him?

And Albert has to thank his lucky stars that the Internet age was in its infancy when the sexual assault allegations against him unfolded. Last year, San Francisco 49ers radio analyst Gary Plummer was fired by the team following an interview he conducted with a local radio program in which he went into vivid detail about his sex life as a member of the squad. Once a sports blog got wind of the interview and went viral, Plummer found himself out of a job.

Granted, Plummer’s exploits may have been tame compared to what was described at Arlington County Courthouse the week of September 22, 1997. But that’s beside the point. If Facebook existed back then, Marv Albert probably wouldn’t have a prayer.

Not to say that Albert lucked out by dodging the digital bullet. Regardless of that – and regardless of his sexual fetishes – it’s quite remarkable to see how an announcer that MSG Network has called “one of the preeminent play-by-play telecasters of his generation” (yes, that was after he left MSG in 2004 after being critical of the Knicks’ play) has, to borrow a common basketball term, rebounded, and become an even more eminent announcer of the Facebook generation.

Ken Fang, curator of the “Fang’s Bites” sports media news website, who was working at Clear Channel’s WHJJ-AM/WHJY-FM in Providence back in 1997, tells me he was “pretty shocked” when Albert was hit with sexual assault charges. “Marv had a clean reputation at the time. When the salacious details came out, it was extremely distressing.”

It was likely so distressing for Albert, he made sure to steer clear of the New York Post – specifically, its renowned celebrity gossip column “Page Six” – until his trial was behind him. Paula Froelich, who oversaw the Post’s “Page Six” from 1999 to 2009, shared with me her favorite Marv Albert trial memory: “The New York Post had the best headline ever during the trial: a picture of Marv snarling with wig askew: ‘Marv Bites Back!'”

That classic headline was sparked by Albert’s defense team gaining an advantage in Day 2 of the trial. And I’ve scoured the Internet and could not locate a JPG of that front page. Of course, had the trial taken place in 2007, that might be a different story. (For what it’s worth, E! Online used that same phrase as its headline for their item when Albert first returned to broadcasting in 1998.)

At the time of this post, roughly two weeks shy of his 71st birthday, Marv Albert is doing NFL games for CBS, NCAA playoff games for CBS and Turner, and he’s locked up until 2016 calling NBA games for TNT. Suffice it to say, life is good if you’re Marv Albert. He’s still going strong – a conclusion that likely would have been made had he not been arrested and arraigned on sexual assault charges fifteen years ago today. A big part of that has to do with his professionalism. People forget that his arraignment hearing was scheduled just after he called a couple of conference final round NBA games that weekend for NBC.

Then again, people have almost entirely forgotten about Marv Albert’s arrest. The lurid testimony. And yes, that mugshot.

Just as there were people who reminisced fifteen years to the day of O.J. Simpson’s car chase, I’ll be curious to see how many websites and blogs today will be asking, “Where were you when you found out Marv Albert was arrested?”

How about we pose this question: Who else but Marv Albert can return from a fall from grace with utmost grace?

And my response is this: Yes. It counts.

Fifteen years removed from his arrest, Marv Albert will be calling Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Now that’s vindication.

Schlereth To Face ESPN's "Nation" In 2013: Source

How's this for a dramatic transition? As ESPN bids adieu to Michelle Beadle (shown here, eating crackers) and welcomes Charissa Thompson (upper inset) as her replacement on "SportsNation," word on the street is that Mark Schlereth (lower inset) is the leader in the clubhouse to replace Colin Cowherd (upper inset) on the program next year.

Back in April, when Sports By Brooks reported that “SportsNation” co-host Colin Cowherd would be leaving the program for an ESPN show of his own in 2013, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that “SportsNation” as viewers know it would change dramatically, especially now that the other shoe has dropped in Michelle Beadle defecting to NBC – another development first broken by SbB – effective immediately.

SbB also reported that Charissa Thompson, who has already made stops at FOX Sports, NFL Network and even Versus (now known as NBC Sports Network) in her young broadcasting career, and who has been an employee of the Worldwide Leader for all of one year, would be Michelle Beadle’s “SportsNation” replacement “two weeks after Beadle’s last show,” which is officially scheduled for this Thursday. (Meanwhile, Thompson made, more or less, her officially unofficial debut as “SportsNation” co-host on Friday, subbing for Beadle.)

Now, who but SbB is hearing that Mark Schlereth, an 11-year ESPN veteran who currently hosts the evening show on ESPN Radio alongside a veteran of both ESPN and the Air Force, Bronx native Mike Hill, “is the favorite to land Colin Cowherd’s SportsNation role when Cowherd gets his own ESPN TV show in early ’13.”

While Schlereth is a regular on “NFL Live” and has made appearances on other ESPN programs such as “Mike & Mike,” and yes, even “SportsNation,” hosting a daily program on one of the ESPN networks would most certainly be a step up from co-hosting a show on ESPN Radio in a time slot frequently pre-empted by live local sports broadcasts by ESPN Radio affiliates on the East Coast, and occasionally live national sports broadcasts on ESPN Radio itself.

And consider “Hill & Schlereth” just started this January. Could it be that “H&S” was just a vehicle constructed by the Worldwide Leader to see how Schlereth would perform in a regular hosting role? And were they even half-considering Schlereth as Cowherd’s replacement on “SportsNation” when they launched “H&S”? You figure that, even with someone with as long of a tenure as Schlereth, he’d need to make somewhat of a transition from analyst to regular host in some form (even if, as the title suggests, he appears to be playing “second fiddle” on the radio show).

While the jury is out on Thompson’s reign in “SportsNation,” people are not necessarily warming up to the news that Schlereth may unseat Cowherd on the program. “He’s as close to unwatchable as it gets,” opines Josh Walters, while someone who dubs himself Bobby Digital likens Schlereth to “the horrendous [Dan] LeBatard”.

Considering the time “SportsNation” airs each afternoon and the time “Hill & Schlereth” airs on ESPN Radio, it is not known at this time if Schlereth will host both programs should he officially assume “SportsNation” hosting duties. Currently, Cowherd hosts both “SportsNation” and his own ESPN Radio show, “The Herd,” which airs earlier in the day (10 AM-1 PM ET) than “SportsNation.”

Not to suggest that Schlereth would not be up to the challenge of hosting two programs on two different ESPN platforms every day.

The bigger challenge for Mark Schlereth – and to a larger extent, Charissa Thompson – would be retaining the most important members of “SportsNation” – the viewing public.

Showtime Shows Warren Sapp The Door

Showtime will not be retaining Warren Sapp's services when "Inside The NFL" returns this fall. This development comes on the heels of news that NFL Network will likely part ways with Sapp when his contract expires this summer. Sapp recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

When the next season of “Inside The NFL” is underway, Warren Sapp will be on the outside looking in.

In a move anticipated back when he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month, Sapp has been dumped by Showtime’s seasonal weekly NFL digest. The news of his Showtime contract non-renewal was first reported by Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Sapp is an alumnus of the University of Miami). Jackson was also told that the other three “Inside The NFL” regulars, James Brown and Phil Simms from CBS (Showtime is a division of CBS) as well as NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, will all be returning when the show begins its fifth season on Showtime, and its 36th season overall – you may recall the series was waived back in 2008, when then-HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg cited changes in “the television landscape” as the reason for its dismissal.

This year at the Sports Emmy Awards, “Inside The NFL” was nominated for “outstanding weekly studio show,” while Brown and Collinsworth also earned “outstanding” host and analyst nods.

Not too shabby for a show that’s been canceled by HBO. So I guess you can call “Inside The NFL” the “Family Guy” of sports shows.

As we learned from Sapp’s bankruptcy report, Showtime paid him $45,000 annually during his four-year tenure with “Inside The NFL.” Right underneath that listing, on page 34 of the report, is a blurb that read, “Debtor’s employment contract with NFL Network ends on August 31, 2012, and unknown if contract will be renewed.”

What led to Sapp’s removal from “Inside The NFL” – his calling out former Saints player Jeremy Shockey in the team’s “Bountygate” ordeal – is likely what will also lead to his eventual departure from NFL Network, where he’s been an analyst since his retirement from the NFL. Following his labeling Shockey “the snitch,” Sapp finished out that week on “Total Access,” but with his Twitter handle at the time, @QBKilla, being stripped from his on-air chyrons. He would then be absent from NFLN’s air for the entire month of April, and then some. He would return to the network’s “Total Access” program on May 2 – the day Junior Seau died in what has been ruled a suicide. And as I recently reported, his NFLN chyrons now include his current Twitter handle, @WarrenSapp.

While Sapp will desperately be searching for a new source of income in an attempt to overcome his financial woes, he’ll most likely find ways to keep himself busy. In addition to finishing out his stint at NFLN, he’s also appearing on a celebrity dating show on Fox. Titled “The Choice” (not to be confused with an “American Idol” ripoff on another network whose name rhymes with “The Choice”), Sapp and a cast of celebs ranging from Dean Cain to Carmen Electra choose regular Joes and Janes who throw themselves at the celebs, begging to go on dates with them.

He’ll also probably be going on a book tour to promote “Sapp Attack,” a new memoir, of which excerpts appeared in a review of the book by the Tampa Bay Times’ Gary Shelton.

As for that side project of his that we blew the lid off of – “The Judge Sapp Show”? The website of the firm that paid people to be in the audience of the show has announced that taping has just about wrapped up. And I’ve come to find out that when the shows, which were taped in late April, see the light of day, it will be via the YouTube channel of NOC (“Network Of Champions”), as opposed to a broadcast television outlet.

But who knows. If the “Judge Sapp” web pilot takes off – or, if you prefer, “goes viral” – it could potentially lead to a major distribution deal.

Lord knows Warren Sapp could use it, now that both of his television revenue streams are all but adjourned.

Iwo No, They Didn't! CSN/Washington Gives RGIII A Hero's Welcome

Comcast SportsNet Washington is running a promo welcoming Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III "home." What's wrong with this picture? Some consider it "tasteless" since it started running right before Memorial Day.

If you thought the most sensational regional sports network promotion involving a quarterback would be coming out of New York (think Tebow), think again.

Just in time for Memorial Day, Comcast SportsNet Washington started airing a station ID praising the town’s new savior under center, Robert Griffin III, the player that the Redskins traded up four spots in the NFL Draft top ten to select.

There’s no video of it on YouTube, but it’s moot because it’s a very brief promo, and the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg has provided the three vital screengrabs from the ID.

Yet it’s the third and final still that may give you chills.

Behind the Iwo Jima Memorial are the words “Welcome Home RGIII” attached to the Comcast SportsNet logo, with a giant Redskins logo serving as the backdrop.

Mind you, RGIII has yet to even take a snap in an official NFL game. And the network is already likening him to a major historical figure – as if he’d won the Super Bowl.

Look, this kid might be the real deal, but it’s a little too early to start superimposing him over Washington landmarks – and in the case of the Iwo Jima composite, it would probably be in the best interest of CSN not to desecrate it with “Welcome Home RGIII.”

Especially since he wasn’t even born on American soil: his parents Jacqueline and Robert Jr., both Army Sergeants, were stationed in Japan in 1990 when Robert III was born.

Later, the family relocated to Fort Lewis in Washington – no, not Washington, D.C., but Tacoma, Washington.

Yes, he lived in the “other” Washington in the past. And now, a Washington, D.C. regional sports network is welcoming him “home” through the imagery of Iwo Jima.

Give me a break.

Dave Hughes of DCRTV.com shared the photo on Facebook and wondered, “Is there just something a bit tasteless, as we approach Memorial Day, with a promo for a highly paid pro football star that uses images of soldiers who died for our freedom?”

“I agree, that imagery’s a little much,” read one response to Hughes’ question, while another lamented, “Enough of us pledging allegiance to some dope who carries around a ball.”

Granted, CSN isn’t the first party – and sadly, probably won’t be the last – to doctor the Iwo Jima image for their own causes. Most recently, The Daily Show altered the statue for a proposed Occupy Wall Street monument, port-a-potty and all.

Okay. Even if the Redskins signed Najeh Davenport, I doubt that CSN would go there.

But it’s a bit foolish to update the look of any war memorial for the benefit of a second-overall draft pick from Baylor. Especially with Memorial Day around the corner.

Bad concept. Bad timing. Everything about the idea is bad.

And should Robert Griffin III get run out of his “home,” that would really look bad.

Whither Kara Henderson?

It’s been weeks since Kara Henderson last appeared on NFL Network. All indications are she’s okay – but it’s odd for a regular face on the network to be gone for so long without any explanation.

[UPDATE, 9.9.12: Kara explains her absence from NFL Network – more here.]

Regular NFL Network viewers may have noticed that something was missing over the last several weeks – or, rather, someone.

The last time Kara Henderson appeared on NFLN was, I want to say, sometime between the scouting combine and the release of the 2012 NFL schedule. I’m not going to go crazy looking for the exact date, nor am I going to go to similar lengths to find out why she hasn’t been on NFLN’s air for a couple of months or so. But the point of this post is basically to draw attention to the fact that one of the network’s notable personalities has gone missing for an exorbitant amount of time, with no explanation – nor any hint from Henderson herself about her on-air absence to her thousands of Twitter followers. Other than an Easter shout-out to Warren Sapp and a Bubba Watson retweet, her account has been virtually silent since April 3.

You’d think it was her, and not Sapp, who was behind “Snitchgate” based on her not appearing on the network for a long time. (And I doubt she’s serving time for this unfortunate, but I’m sure unintended, slip of the tongue on the air last fall.)

She did break the Twitter ice last Sunday, playing a game of “Where am I?” with her followers. So she was in St. Louis taking in a Cardinals game. So it would appear that she’s not in harm’s way.

The other good news is, she still lists NFL Network as her employer on Twitter, so it’s a sure bet that she’ll return to the network – the question, of course, is when?

Understand that this is not a slight on the other “Total Access” crew members, especially her de facto substitute, Lindsay Rhodes, who is quite talented. In fact, during this period, she’s been pulling double duty co-anchoring “Total Access” on some nights, while hosting the annual “Top 100 Players” series.

Look, people are free to take vacations. In fact, Andrew Siciliano was out last week, with his RedZone Channel colleague, the honorable Scott Hanson, subbing for him. Andrew’s back this week. My point is, this is an unusually long vacation for someone who has been on the network quite often.

And it’s not just me that notices Henderson’s extended absence. There are other NFLN viewers inquiring about her whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook.

For the record, I have no details about the absence, nor am I asking for any. The fact that there are folks wondering why Kara’s been off the air is basically why this post exists. With all due respect, I’m personally not losing sleep at night over it; she can visit each and every baseball stadium and return when the NFL training camps open, if that’s what’s on her agenda. As a blogger, I’m just filling a void.

It’s just strange for a person to be missing for a great deal of time, with nobody addressing it.