Usually, when football fans think “first on the field,” they think of the title of a musical piece used by CBS for their NFL coverage.
Starting September 9, the phrase will be associated with another network.
“First On The Field” is the title of a new two-hour weekly program on NFL Network, airing Sunday mornings at 7 AM ET, and acting as somewhat of a pregame to the pregame, i.e. the established “NFL Gameday Morning” program that starts at 9 AM ET.
“First” will be hosted by Melissa Stark, who joined NFLN last year and filed various reports from NFL teams during football season. This new Sunday morning program suggests that she won’t be doing that, at least on Sundays. In fact, the network appears to be putting stock in her skills as a studio hostess, as her NFLN bio page, which is already updated with the “First On The Field” news, reads that “in addition to” that show, she is scheduled to host the network’s ‘season kickoff show” (which I’m assuming is next Wednesday), plus “Super Bowl, NFL Draft and other major programming.” As someone who has watched Stark over the years on “Monday Night Football,” I’m sure she’ll have no problems making a smooth transition from the sidelines to the studio – if, indeed, the plan is for her to exclusively be a studio host, and no more roaming the sidelines.
Joining Stark on “The Field” is Sterling Sharpe, an NFL Network veteran for the better half of the last decade (he had been part of NBC’s “Football Night In America” for its inaugural year and was replaced the following season by that thing called Tiki Barber). Also part of the cast is an NFLN neophyte who just recently hung up his cleats after accomplishing an 11-year career with 145 touchdowns and over 18,000 all-purpose yards: LaDainian Tomlinson. Resident NFLN reporter and analyst Michael Lombardi rounds out the “First On The Field” cast.
The show’s content will likely be an early-bird’s version of “GameDay Morning” – game previews, interviews, debates and discussions – albeit with less glitz, and likely no actual NFL players walking around their respective “fields” during those hours.
“First On The Field” is the second morning franchise to be launched by NFL Network this year: the daily “NFL AM” program actually celebrates its one-month anniversary later this week. (I would imagine starting in September, NFLN will begin carrying a “best-of” compilation of “NFL AM” on Saturday mornings.)
I’m sure people reading this are wondering about a longtime NFL Network studio host, Kara Henderson, who seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth right before this year’s NFL Draft. I couldn’t tell you, but I can confirm that her Twitter bio no longer reads “NFL Network Anchor/Reporter”. (Incidentally, not too long ago, a reader brought to my attention the fact that her profile was missing from the main talent page on NFLN’s website – i.e. no longer listed between Scott Hanson and Michael Irvin – yet her individual bio page remains on the website’s server, even after her NFLN association has been removed from her Twitter.)
At any rate, NFL Network has certainly expanded their hours of original content per year. “Gameday Morning” alone has expanded to a three-hour show in 2008 and again to its current four-hour format a year later. Last year, ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” expanded to three hours.
If Melissa, Mike, LT and S-Squared catch on with their efforts, “First On The Field” might be starting at 5 AM at some point.
I can’t wait to hear what their theme music will sound like… something like this, perhaps?