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NFL players get chance to work on media skills at Broadcasting and Media Workshop

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Jason Kelce has excelled as one of the NFL's best offensive linemen for his ability to quickly adjust blocking schemes and make split-second decisions to ensure his quarterback has a clean pocket.

The Philadelphia Eagles center has discovered that translating that to a television or radio audience is more challenging than it seems.

Kelce was one of 25 current and former players who participated last week in the league's Broadcasting and Media Workshop, which used to be known as the Broadcast Bootcamp.

This was the 16th time the event was held. For the past two years, it has taken place at the NFL Media headquarters, which opened in 2021 and is a 30-yard pass from SoFi Stadium, the home of the Rams and Chargers.

"This is all new territory for me. I have even more respect for it now," Kelce said. "It's very hard to do something live, reactive of stimulus that just happened and having something clever and meaningful to say."

The three-day session allows participants to call a game on radio or television and work in the studio as an analyst.

Nine of last year's 24 participants worked in some media capacity. The two biggest names were Richard Sherman, who was part of the pregame and postgame coverage on Amazon Prime Video's first season of "Thursday Night Football," and Jason McCourty, who was an analyst for Westwood One radio and is a co-host on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

Tracy Perlman, the NFL's senior vice president of player operations, said there are always surprises over who applies, but some of their personalities emerge during the process.

"Some of them come here, unsure about wanting to be in the media. But they get a full experience and see there are many ways they can be in media," she said. "Guys are looking for what they will do in their transition from playing. And they want to be around football."

Changes in the program, including smaller classes and more one-on-coaching, have made it a more valuable experience. This year, participants got to call a game twice on television. There was also an increased focus on podcasting and social media.

Each participant did a 10-minute portion from the first half of last season's Indianapolis Colts-Minnesota Vikings game during the television analyst portion. After receiving feedback from directors from Fox and NBC, they returned and did another 10-minute segment from later in the game.

"I think every time you see automatic improvement and how much more comfortable they are. There's a lot of little things that even though they know the game, they have to learn how to fit their thought in between snaps the best way they can," said Fox play-by-play announcer Chris Myers, who was part of the TV sessions. "They're going to pick the best thing, but they also have to play to what's on the monitor and what people at home see on replays. And they have to have a little personality."

Kelce also said the other tricky thing could be remembering to pronounce someone's name correctly.

"It's a lot easier when you're sitting on the couch or have heard the name over and over. Certainly some of the names are difficult to remember on the spot," Kelce said.

While Kelce, who will be going into his 13th season with the Eagles, is considering getting into broadcasting down the line, there may be immediate opportunities for Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Shazier.

Suh, a 13-year NFL vet, is assessing all his options for the upcoming season after he was a midseason signing by the Eagles last year.

"It was a great experience to dive into and put myself in an uncomfortable position to see what it will look like," Suh said about the workshop. "The biggest thing that I learned probably came from (NFL Network reporter) Steve Wyche. He said to my group that mental stamina will be the biggest thing here. You not only have to study different things you might encounter while calling a game but also give a perspective. If you don't have a strong mental ability to retain a lot of information, it can be very difficult to be successful."

Shazier, the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker who suffered a career-ending spinal injury in 2017, is known by most fans for his inspirational comeback following the injury that left him briefly paralyzed. But Shazier has worked as a college football analyst for the past couple of seasons and has hosted his podcast.

Besides getting more coaching during the sessions, Shazier said he has been interested in learning more about media dating to his days at Ohio State.

"It has been awesome to get to talk to the different networks and understand their perspective compared to just the perspective of the hometown that I live in," he said. "All those things can help you improve, and I'm always trying to learn."

While Kelce will soon begin offseason workouts with the Eagles, networks will start assessing their lineups for the upcoming season after the draft, with most of the hiring happening in May and June. Other notable participants included Dante Stallworth, Chris Johnson, and John Abraham.

Sandy Nunez, the vice president of talent management at NFL Media, said this year's group stuck out for the number of questions asked during the first day and improvements made between sessions. She added the participants received their tryout reels, which also helps the evaluation process.

"There's a lot of variables — how did they prep, what kind of questions did they ask, or were they asking? I've heard that this is a highly engaged group, asking very smart questions that made me feel good because that means that we pick the right people that come through," she said.

Copyright The Associated Press 2023