JANUARY 17TH, 2021
NFL Playoffs, Divisional Round: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints
MORNING OF THE GAME: WORKOUT FIRST
7:00 AM Rise and shine in Dallas! Love starting the day off with a workout because nothing helps keep me sane and boost my mood like getting in a good sweat. Today I got on the Peloton for a ride and follow it up with a Melissa Wood workout.
8:00 AM Next up is breakfast. Since I’ll spend the rest of the day running around, I always make sure to get in a good meal to help keep me fueled all day long. Decided to stick with my go-to breakfast order—scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, side of fruit and lots of coffee.
8:30 AM Catch up on reading my morning articles, check on any news stories around the league and watch some last minute highlights. Then I organize and put the final touches on my game notes.
10:30 AM Before I know it, it’s time to pack and get ready to leave for the airport.
NEXT STOP: SUPERDOME, NEW ORLEANS
2:00 PM Landed in New Orleans! My guy V from Fox security picks us up and we’re off straight to the Superdome.
2:45 PM First stop is the green room to meet up with the rest of my crew; look over all my notes and work on my pregame hit and my first game hit. Try to squeeze in some kind of lunch. Today’s menu includes a strawberry Uncrustable and a bag Fritos—glamorous!
GETTING CAMERA READY
3:30 PM My makeup artist gets me camera ready while I try to sneak in some last minute studying on my phone. Then it’s a quick outfit change into my game day look. Lastly—but most importantly—I pack up some green room snacks and waters for the road and grab a fresh cup of coffee before hitting the field.
4:15 PM Head out to the field. For this game, I’ll be covering the Buccaneers sideline and my colleague Tom Rinaldi will be on the Saints side. I locate my home base table in the first row of seating and start setting up my station. Organize my notes, check my monitor, charge up my phone and meet with my audio guy for a mic check. I watch pregame warm-ups and have a few quick chats with team personnel.
I head to the game with all of my notes and everything organized. I keep them in a big black binder. They’re all typed out and organized. I don’t actually use probably a quarter of those notes on air because a lot of what I do is observation. But I need to know all of this research because you never know what’s going to pop up since it’s a live event.
All the preparation is done the week of, so it’s not done at the game. There’s about four to five conference calls that you’re on; you talk to about four different players; you talk to two coaches, the quarterbacks. It’s like seven days of preparation, so it’s a lot. There’s a ton of reading and watching film.
4:30 PM Check in with the studio back in Los Angeles. My first hit will be intro’ing a pre-taped interview I did with Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin for the FOX NFL pregame show. Then I run through everything with the studio crew a few times.
I get to the front row, check in with the pregame show with Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long and those guys; we do a mic check.
FOOTBALL IN THE TIME OF COVID
Things are really different this year because we’re not allowed on the field anymore. We are basically sequestered to the front row because of COVID and the way the NFL is this year.
So now I come to the game, I’ve got my binder full of research that I spent seven days collecting, we get there, we get made up and then we just head down to the mote. We’re not allowed out on the field. In years past, we would be allowed on the field in pre-game warmups when the guys were FaceTiming their families, or they were walking around the field, and you could grab 7 to 10 different players on the field and ask them quick questions. That doesn’t happen anymore.
WE ARE LIVE!
5:00 PM My feature is on Chris Godwin, and then right after I’m done, I throw it to my feature—and my feature runs on the pregame show.
My pregame hit with the studio went off without a hitch, but I’m already thinking about my next hit. I send a few quick texts to my dad to get his opinion on some last minute edits I’m thinking about making.
5:40 PM Kickoff! Joe Buck throws it to me for my first on-camera game hit.
OBSERVATIONS: ANTONIO BROWN’S KNEE
A lot of my stuff is all observation in terms of what Joe and Troy from the booth can’t see. I can see over on the field, and I can see what’s happening. In this game, for instance, Antonio Brown—I noticed from where I was standing, he just wasn’t going in on plays. And then I saw him talking to the trainer, and I told our cameras right away via my director, “Hey, hey, hey, get a shot of Antonio Brown. He’s talking to the trainers and is pointing to his knee.”
Well then as the Buccaneers went into halftime, I saw Tom Brady walk over to Antonio as they were going into the locker room, and I just said, “Something is going on here”. It obviously had alerted Tom Brady that something was happening with Antonio Brown. So at halftime, I get to talk to the head coach, Bruce Arians, and I said to him, “What’s going on with Antonio?” So again, a lot of my stuff is observation.
At halftime, the PR spokesman for the team will go and walk in with the coach; he’ll put the headset on the coach because I’m not allowed to be there anymore to interview him. He will make sure his headset is working, and I have a headset where I’m sitting in the front row. I talk to the head coach there at halftime and then I get my little bit, rip my headset off, put some lip gloss on really quick and make sure there’s nothing in my nose, make sure there’s nothing in my teeth, and that I’m not shiny—and do my hit.
My side won. Tampa Bay won. It’s a divisional playoff game, and it’s a big one. They are headed to the NFC championship to take on the No. 1 seed, the Green Bay Packers.
THE BIG GET: POSTGAME INTERVIEW WITH BRADY
I looked at the PR guy and said, “I have to get Tom, I have to get Tom”. Tom doesn’t do postgame interviews, and I’m just praying that I get him. I see him walking over, and I’m just like yes, yes, yes! Tom is down on the field, and I’m up in the stands. He has a little speaker in front of him and a microphone. What I noticed about that interview later is that I was just so excited. In that moment he’s so cool, calm, and collected like Tom Brady is, and I’m just so smiley and almost yelling a little bit. It’s really funny.
This is the first one Tom has done all year—I was excited that he did a postgame interview with me—to get to talk to the GOAT, and he’s going to the NFC Championship…it was a really cool moment.
ON DREW BREES’ LAST GAME
For me personally, I’ve been covering the NFL for nine years, and we’re very close with the New Orleans Saints. My broadcast team covers the Saints a lot. So I’ve been around Drew Brees since I started in the NFL. We went into that game not really knowing if it was going to happen, but Jay Glazer from the pregame show actually said on the show, “This is the last game for Drew Brees.” It was just… wow.
Then they lost this game. He had thrown several touchdowns, and Troy started bringing it into the conversation. Since I wasn’t covering the Saints, I know we had tried to get an interview with Drew. But I definitely made sure to include it in my postgame interview with Brady because you saw them have that moment, the two of them—that was before he came out, and they were playing with their kids out on the field.
You saw him have that moment, and you just knew there were things you wanted to talk about with Tom Brady—you know, beating the Saints finally after the Saints had beaten them twice, going to an NFC Championship in Green Bay where it’s supposed to be 20 degrees… and Drew Brees.
It was great the way Tom handled it. I just said to him, “There are reports that this is Drew Brees’ last game, we saw you have that moment out in the field, what are your thoughts on him and that?” He just said, “That’s Drew’s business, that’s not mine.” It was definitely important to talk to Brady about it because it was a storyline, and it was hanging over the game. And he handled it like a pro, like he always does.
5:45 PM I’ll admit it now, I was INCREDIBLY nervous for my first live game hit. Come on! It’s Tom Brady and Drew Brees in the playoffs. You don’t want to screw that up. I was shaking pretty good after I got off camera, which shows me two things: I love this game, and there’s no place I’d rather be on Sundays!