Transcript: Monday Night Football's Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Lisa Salters Media Call – ESPN Press Room

On Wednesday, August 31, ESPN held a media call with Monday Night Football’s Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Lisa Salters to discuss the upcoming season. They were joined by Stephanie Druley, ESPN Head of Event & Studio Production.
Please find a transcript of the call below:
Derek Volner: Welcome to the preseason Monday Night Football call. My name is Derek Volner, Director of Communications here at ESPN.
To get things started we’re going to turn things over to ESPN Head of Events & Studio Productions, Stephanie Druley. Go ahead.
STEPHANIE DRULEY: I want to thank everybody for joining us today. As you guys know, we have had an incredibly busy offseason. Our NFL Draft coverage across two networks was exceptional and a return to normal for us and for fans.
The NFL Live has become a destination on weekday afternoons, and that’s thanks to the team in front of and behind the camera. We’ll have consistency this season on Sunday morning with the Countdown team that is really happy to be returning this year.
The offseason was really busy for us. We have resigned more than 20 of our NFL talent, and it’s really great to have so many returning veterans that give us a consistency across our coverage.
As you know, we are entering a new era of Monday Night Football. This season we will produce 21 regular season games and a wild card. Next year 23, plus a wild card and divisional. Of course, the Super Bowl looms for us in the ’26 season. So to say we’re excited about that is an understatement. This new schedule allows the team of Steve Levy, Louis Riddick, Dan Orlovsky, and Laura Rutledge to continue to grow together.
Monday Night Countdown returns to the sites of many of our games during the season, and we’re excited to welcome Robert Griffin III as a consistent member of that team. Our newest Emmy winners, Peyton and Eli, return for the first week of the season, and they will do ten games this year. That schedule and announcement will come shortly.
We have a new booth. When we were whiteboarding our ultimate booth shortly after the end of the regular season, Troy and Joe were at the top of that list for all of us. For me they are simply the best team out there.
Their chemistry, their love of the game, and the high standard they set for themselves, I think that’s what makes them an incredible team. They have been the soundtrack of our Sunday afternoons for 20 years, and to have them bring that excellence to Monday Night Football is so exciting for us.
They join producer Phil Dean and Jimmy Platt, who return to lead an incredible crew behind the scenes. Officiating analyst John Parry is back. He is an invaluable resource to us and to the guys in the booth.
Last, but never least, Lisa Salters has been our Monday Night constant for ten seasons, and we are so fortunate to have her on the sideline for the 11th. Lisa gets no offseason. It seems like only a few weeks ago she was presenting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the NBA Finals.
Lisa, congrats on a great NBA season, and welcome to probably the most highly-anticipated Monday Night Football season in my 30 years at ESPN. No pressure, guys. Appreciate it.
LISA SALTERS: Thanks, Steph. Wow, that just gets your blood going. It’s been, like you said, a busy 12 months for me from Monday Night Football to the NBA Playoffs, the NBA Finals.
My friends always joke with me that I have the best jobs in the world, and they’re absolutely right. Reporting and telling stories, the very different stories of all the different athletes and coaches, it’s what I love to do. I’ve had so many just wonderful opportunities in my 23 years at ESPN.
It is hard to believe that this is going into my 11th season of Monday Night Football. I still remember getting the call from Vince Doria back in 2012 asking me, hey, would you be interested in being the sideline reporter for “Monday Night Football?” Interested? Like, are you kidding me? Yes, sign me up, for sure.
Like everybody out there, I grew up watching Monday Night Football. That was the one day of the week that you got to stay up late. I remember rooting for my cousin, Tony Dorsett, and the Cowboys while my dad — sorry, Troy — rooted against the Cowboys because we’re from Philadelphia, and we’re an Eagles family, but we still secretly root for the Cowboys all because of Tony.
There are so many reasons why Monday Night Football is iconic: The history, the stakes, the moments. For me it’s that 99-yard run that Tony had.
But what’s truly made it special to me is something that I knew nothing about until I became a part of it, and that is what a family Monday Night Football is. The group of people who work so hard every week to make it shine from, like you said, Steph, Phil Dean, Jimmy Platt, John Parry, the entire crew, the graphics, replay, everybody, the camera people, my assistant on the field, Eric. Everyone just works so hard because there’s a special pride that comes along with getting to say that you work on “Monday Night Football.”
Now we get to work with two of the best to ever do it in Joe and Troy. To be a teammate of theirs is such a huge honor for me. Guys, I don’t want to blow smoke, but, you know, I’m coming into the season thinking, I’ve got to raise my game. I want to do you guys proud. I want to be there for whatever you need me to be on the sideline. It’s going to be a great season for “Monday Night Football.” I can’t wait to get to Seattle to get it started.
Troy, let’s send it over to you.
TROY AIKMAN: I just learned something, Lisa. I didn’t realize you were cousins with TD, Tony Dorsett. That’s pretty awesome.
I will keep it brief. I’ll just say that I am beyond excited to be working on “Monday Night Football.” Like Lisa and so many others, grew up watching Monday Night Football and Don Meredith and Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell, hearing their voices every Monday night. It is an iconic property. It’s a historic booth. To be a part of that legacy, I can’t even put into words exactly what that means.
But to get to work with everyone that is on this call, Lisa, you especially, but to get to continue working alongside my partner for the last 20 years is really what has made this so special for me. It’s one thing to be doing Monday night in this property, in this booth, but to continue to do it with someone who I consider a cherished friend is pretty cool. Not a lot of people get that opportunity.
So thrilled. Look forward to answering your questions, and I’ll pass it on to Joe.
JOE BUCK: Yeah, I’ll keep it brief if I can. I’m not good at that. I feel the same pressure leading into this season that I felt when Troy, Cris Collinsworth, and I took over for Pat Summerall and John Madden when we did back in the day, and we started that 20-year relationship. Then Chris moved on after three years, and it was just Troy and me, and we’ve enjoyed every second of it.
To be together in this business that can be high-pressure and strange at times and back-stabbing and infighting and all the stuff that goes on in a broadcast booth or in a TV production, we’ve never had any of it. Maybe that’s getting a little annoying hearing that all the time, but it is true.
So I feel that same type pressure. I come at Monday Night Football a little bit different in that I’m 53 years old, so I’m well aware of that booth that really changed the way we viewed football on television with appointment viewing on a Monday night, but I saw that booth from two booths down.
I was with my dad and trailing around with him and in the back of the radio booth, which was sometimes made out of a broom closet, looking two booths down and seeing that spectacle and going, man, what my dad is doing is cool, but what’s going on down there is different and big. That’s always been in the back of my mind.
I never saw this move coming. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to start this season, to be at ESPN, to continue with Troy, to continue building that relationship, but then getting new ones with Phil, our producer, and Jimmy, our director, and Lisa. I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with Lisa Salters, who is a tremendous journalist and so good when you throw it down to her.
We found that out in the practice game after the first report. It was really good. We were just kind of messing around and getting the mechanics of it. And John Parry, who I think picks up in our lives, Troy and me, where our dear friend Mike Pereira leaves off. At least on the air. He is fantastic at what he does. He is concise. He is able to put difficult, convoluted rulings into easy language to understand.
We’re all just champing at the bit. I can’t wait to be an ESPN’er for at least five years and hopefully the rest of my career. That’s going to be up to them, not me. I’m excited to answer the questions, and fire away.
DEREK VOLNER: Let’s get started.
Joe, Troy, glad to see you guys didn’t have to do the 18 promos like you did when you took over as the No. 1 crew with Fox.
JOE BUCK: You’re the only person on earth other than us that remembers that, but yeah, with Troy in a Mohawk. Yeah, (laughing).
Just for you two and for Lisa, too. With the first game Monday Night Football and considering that it’s Denver at Seattle, out of all the openers you guys have done together, is this the most anticipated one or the one maybe with the most story lines going in?
JOE BUCK: Go ahead, Troy.
TROY AIKMAN: Well, I mean, I think each year there’s different reasons to get excited about the opener. I got excited about the openers as a player. I get just as excited about the start of football season, like all the fans do when we kick this thing off.
As far as where it ranks in other openers, I think it’s pretty special. For all the reasons that you already know, with Russell Wilson and all that he did and going back to Seattle and how will he be received and what exactly will that look like and how will he do in Denver and all?
I think, in general, that’s a really great opener for us to cap the end of what we all hope is a terrific Week 1. When I look at the Monday night schedule that we have, I’m pretty excited about all of them. I think every one of them you could look at and make a compelling case as to why it’s a great match-up.
I don’t even know who we had last year, so I can’t even really try to compare, but I know that I am excited about what we have this year.
JOE BUCK: I feel the same way. Yes, I’ll answer your question, Joe, and say, yes. This is at least for me personally career-wise and what the significance of this is after 27 years or whatever it was at Fox to come to ESPN and have the pressure of all that’s been talked about and all these musical chairs and everything that’s gone on this last crazy offseason with broadcasters that nobody has ever seen. I don’t think anybody ever cares to see again, to be honest with you. I can’t wait to get going.
And the storylines, the funny thing is we’re going to start, and we’ll be in Seattle. Whenever Russell Wilson takes the field, it will be our job to not talk. So, I mean, that’s ironic that we’re going to come there, and we’ve got this great matchup with this player who gave them their only Super Bowl win and went to back-to-back Super Bowls and all he did was win in Seattle, and finally last year got hurt after getting hit as much as he go the hit.
When he takes the field, it’s going to be Troy and I looking at each other and Lisa down on the field and John, and we’ll be quiet just like everybody at home and listen to how the crowd reacts to him taking the field as a Denver Bronco.
LISA SALTERS: For me I would say, yes, it is probably the most highly-anticipated in my 11 years. The game storylines speak for themselves, like you guys have already indicated. Of course, I can’t wait to see how Russ is going to be just leading up to the game, just to see how he is.
We know how he is normally. I’m just curious, is it going to be times ten, or is he going to dial it back a little bit?
The game storylines are what they are. For that reason alone, it would be one of the best openers we’ve ever had, but add to that we’ve got Joe and Troy now. Like Steph said, we’re marking a new era of “Monday Night Football,” and for all of those reasons combined, this absolutely has got to be for me the biggest opener.
One for Troy, and one for Joe. For Troy: Nate Hackett, West Coast offense background, how do you think that will meld with what Russ does well? And then for Joe, what’s Russ like in a production meeting?
TROY AIKMAN: (Laughing).
JOE BUCK: Go ahead.
TROY AIKMAN: Well, anyway, the second part of that question made me laugh a little bit.
I think that when you look at Russell over the course of his career, so you say Nathaniel Hackett now in Denver being the head coach, being the offensive guy, and the influences there.
I think Shane Waldron, he brought a similar offense when he came from the Rams to Seattle. I happen to know Schottenheimer, Brian Schottenheimer and kind of his background and what he teaches.
Then I know what Russell was being coached when he got to Seattle. There’s been a lot of different schemes that he has played in, but what we’ve seen in Seattle is a lot of the same stuff over the course of a ten-year period. I really don’t anticipate that changing much.
You know, Russell is a play-action guy. We all know that he likes to get the ball down the field. He throws the ball outside the numbers. There’s not a lot of intermediate throws in the middle.
I think he has got a really good receiving corps in Denver. I think he has some good skill players around him. But I think that what we’re going to see of Russell is a lot of the same that we’ve seen over the last ten years. I just don’t see that looking different because he has been, as I said, with other coordinators that are similar in style and scheme to what Hackett has, and it hasn’t really impacted his play or what it looks like.
JOE BUCK: As far as the second part, I think he is probably like you would expect he would be. He is very — I would say the word that jumps to mind is consistent. He is consistently up. He is consistently positive. His leg could be dangling off, and he would tell you he is fine. He is not very revealing. Let’s say that.
I think you know what you are going to get when you go into a production meeting. And as I’ve always said, whether it’s Bill Belichick or Russell Wilson, Joe Torre in baseball, Derek Jeter, they can say or not say whatever the heck they want to do. They’re not compelled to be revealing about everything.
There are certain players that we talk to — Tom Brady is one of them, Aaron Rodgers is one of them, coaching-wise Tom Coughlin, surprisingly enough, is a guy that just gave you everything he had and would tell you exactly how he felt about player A, B, C, D, and E.
Russell is just not that way. He is very guarded. He is have positive, as he is with the “let’s ride” stuff and “let Russ cook” and “go Hawks” and whatever he would say in his time with Seattle. He would do that with us.
You wouldn’t come out of the production meeting, like, okay, here’s what they’re going to do. You get that with other players, but that is completely their right.
I find him to be an extremely nice person who is about as consistent as anybody that I’ve ever talked with in any production meeting. That’s meant as a compliment because he is not a rise-and-fall guy. He support somebody that’s going to whine to you.
Sometimes these guys will come in and whine to you a little bit, but they hope that it gets on the broadcast so they make their point through us, and that’s not Russell. Russell keeps everything close to the vest and in-house. I respect that.
So he will give you a few things, and you take those and run with them. Then you move on to the next guest on the hot seat.
Two-part question. One on the Cowboys. I know you all have them Week 3. How much do you start looking ahead and preparing for that game now? Then question for Troy: How concerned should Dak Prescott be about the offensive line? When the team go from pro bowler to rookie at left tackle, how do you need to change a scheme or a game plan?
TROY AIKMAN: I hope you got your run in on the trail this morning, first. I don’t start preparing. I’m sure I speak for all of us or most people, everyone on this call for that matter, that we’re in this business. We keep up as best we can with what all the teams are doing. We follow “SportsCenter” and the highlights and all that.
But with the Cowboys, of course, with me living right here in Dallas, I get it every day. I kind of am able to keep up with them a lot easier, but the Cowboys, as you probably know, they’ve always been left-tackle dependent. They’ve really struggled when Tyron Smith has missed time in years past. A great player, of course. They’ve had to get used to him being gone a little bit more. He has had a number of injuries he has to kind of fight through and miss some time.
It’s a lot. I mean, it’s a lot when you then put in a rookie now. I understand. I have heard Steven Jones and the Cowboys, and it’s the right response that that’s why they drafted the rookie at left tackle was to eventually take over for Tyron Smith. They just didn’t envision that it would be Week 1.
I think you probably in the back of your mind think that, yeah, this could happen at some point during the season, but you don’t expect to lose a starter going into the first game of the season and now possibly maybe for the entire year.
You can do some things. It definitely affects you, of course, when you have to start giving help to tackles. Not to get too much football jargon, but you can turn protection and a lot of those types of things, but it affects them.
Mike McCarthy historically has not been a guy who has wanted to help his tackles. We’ve seen that in Green Bay. Sometimes he was criticized for it.
So it is a big blow to them. I know Tampa is dealing with the same stuff when are you talking about Week 1. They’ve had some injuries along their offensive line as well.
JOE BUCK: I just look at the first month usually. I like to try to take aim on what’s immediately in front of me with regard to getting ready for a game.
When we were doing Thursday/Sunday, Thursday/Sunday, it was, gee, you had to compartmentalize and really concentrate on what game was coming up. You couldn’t get too far ahead of yourself, or it would lead to bad things and I think confusion.
I look at the first month. I’ve paid a lot more attention. We get these NFL scans, NFL report, so I’ll read the articles. I’ll read what’s going on with every team every day, but as far as getting down in the weeds of who is making the roster now at this point in the preseason, it’s been a lot of Denver-Seattle. I’ve of looked a lot at Minnesota and Philadelphia because we’ve got them Week 2. Then maybe a little less with Cowboys-Giants, but I’m still reading that stuff every day.
You can’t get behind in this business because you just get lost. So you have to stay on it every day, but the immediate stuff is what I concentrate on with what’s coming up in the next game window for me.
Two questions, first for Troy and Joe: Should we expect to see you on other ESPN shows and properties? As we all know, ESPN likes to get its money’s worth out of its talent. Then, second for Stephanie, when you go to the NFL and roll out to Goodell with an All-Star broadcasting team like this, Troy, Lisa, Joe, does that spell better games, a better schedule for “Monday Night Football?”
STEPHANIE DRULEY: You want me to go first? I can go first and get that one out of the way.
Look, I would say we believe, yes, says it will help us. These guys deserve a certain level of game, and the expectation is that the league sees that as well, and we will reap the benefit of that. That is our hope.
Look, we have an incredible schedule this year. I do think that the booth matters in the amount of quality you’re going to get.
JOE BUCK: Michael, what was the first part of the question? I’m disappointed that I don’t get to see you. You know, whatever.
Should we expect to see you on other shows?
JOE BUCK: I’m up for that. I’m going to appear on your television during the week leading up to Week 1. Going to be on other ABC programming, like Jimmy Kimmel on the Friday night before the first Monday night game, but yeah, that week I’ll be doing the morning shows, but I like that stuff. I like coming on here and talking and interacting.
I don’t know that it’s going to be anything that’s going to be leaned on during the course of the season, but you know, if Scott Van Pelt asked me to come on, I would come on any time he wanted me to come on. That’s kind of how I view it. That’s how it was in my previous life, and that’s how it’s going to be forever for me.
But as far as anything that’s baked into a contract, no. I think they just rely on us to say, well, we’re paying you guys an exorbitant amount of money, so if somebody asks you to come on TV, come on TV. Don’t be a putz.
For Troy and Joe: I wanted to ask you about your relationship with the front bench. You two are an established duo. Phil and Jimmy are an established duo. You both had Rich and Richie in your ears for a very long time. When the dust settled on this move, how do you begin establishing that relationship with your producer and director, and while it’s an element that may not easily be tangible on screen, how important is that relationship?
TROY AIKMAN: Well, it’s critical. It’s really important. Joe mentioned — I’ve worked with one producer my entire career, Richie Zyontz. He has been my producer for 21 years, so it’s all I’ve known. It’s the only thing I’ve ever heard in my ear.
It will be different. And I’ve had two directors. Rich Russo, the latest. He has been there for quite some time. He took over for Artie Kempner. Phil Dean and Jimmy Platt are the producer and director for us now.
We got together in St. Louis back in, I don’t know, May I think it was, Joe, and got a chance to meet those guys, visit with them in person about kind of what we wanted to do, how it looked, what we were accustomed to, kind of how they were used to doing things as well because when you are used to doing it one way for 20 years, everybody just kind of — sometimes you take that for granted and then off you go.
That’s the reason. It’s the biggest reason why we did the rehearsal game back a couple of weeks ago in Seattle was not so much for Joe and I. It was just to get acquainted with the people, one, that are in the booth, to work with Lisa, to also for them to hear in the truck what I would be asking for and for us to hear what their language was for us.
I think in order to do an effective broadcast, and Lisa said it, it truly is a team. Everything in life is basically a team, and how well you’re able to integrate with each other, the better that team is going to perform.
So there’s not a lot of time, of course. When I’m asking to see something, when I want to see a replay and then when that replay is given. The time on task of us being able to communicate, me being able to communicate with them, them understanding what I want in very few words is important, but everyone on this property is more than capable. It’s why we’ve been hired to do these jobs.
What I like is what Joe and I are accustomed to personality-wise is what Phil and Jimmy are as well. They’re very easy, very low-key. They don’t get — from what I can tell and it might all change Week 1, but not overly excitable, you know? You like that. You like a little calmness in the face of what can be a time of pretty stressful situations.
Yeah, but excited about it. Really looking forward to that part of it.
JOE BUCK: The more I think about it, and we’ve been together for 20 years there, but I’ve done baseball and horseracing and motorcycle jumps with Robbie Knievel. I worked with a lot of producers over the years. Local baseball, whatever it might be here in St. Louis.
I called Phil I would say two weeks ago, maybe three weeks ago just out of the blue. And I said, I don’t know if you’re worried about how you talk to me in the booth or when you talk to me or what you’re leading me into. You’re not going to screw me up, so you just do whatever you’ve always done with the play-by-play guy. He has worked with so many different play-by-play people that I’m just another one of them.
I said, you are not going to mess me up. I will adjust to you. I think the bigger question is always, you know, how does the analyst interact with the producer, the director. Is he or she getting what they need replay-wise?
When we did that practice game, I said this on 15 podcasts that I have done over the last couple of weeks, there were multiple times during our time in that booth in Seattle that I looked to my right, and I was, like, thank God I’m standing here next to Troy Aikman. Whether I was where I was or I was at ESPN, there’s just a comforting feeling knowing that I can read his body language. I know when he wants to talk. He can read mine. He knows if I have not finished my point and I wanted to go back to it.
There’s so much unsaid, understood, choreography that comes after X number of years that it’s not that easy when you start with somebody new. Not to say that it can’t be great pretty much right out of the gate. It was I felt that way with Smaltz and me. It’s not easy.
They’re listening and talking into the talk-back, and are they listening to me? Am I listening to them? Do they know that I want to make a point? I’ll grab Troy by the forearm sometimes if he is over here looking or talking into the talk-back, if it’s a point that I want him to for sure hear me make because I know he has something that he wants to come off that with.
All of that stuff is built up over time, and you can’t fake that. With all that being said, we left that preseason game at halftime. So if we were concerned about it — we flew across the country to be there. If it was an issue, we would have stood there for another half of football and worked some of those things out.
They are very similar to the two people that we just left with Richie and Rich. As Troy said, they’re low-key. They’re there for you. They’re good listeners. I feel like we’re good listeners and adjustors in the booth, and we’ll make it work.
It’s not going to be perfect Week 1, and we’ll be chewing on whatever isn’t after Week 1 until we tee it up in Week 2, but it will be close. It will get better with every week just because of that communication.
An Eagles-related question for Troy: Troy, there’s been a lot of attention paid to the Eagles wide receiving corps with the acquisition of AJ Brown in the offseason. I wanted to ask you about their tight end Dallas Goedert and the impact you think he can have on the offense this year and on the chances for success of Jalen Hurts.
TROY AIKMAN: I like what they’ve done in Philadelphia. I’ve liked what they’ve done in Philadelphia for a long time. I just have a lot of respect for the way that they run that organization.
I’ve always liked Dallas Goedert. Because of Zach Ertz, he probably wasn’t utilized like he could, and of course, he is coming along and developing himself. I like him. I like what he means to a young quarterback. I like what any tight end means to a young quarterback. I think it’s a really good fit. I love what they did with AJ Brown bringing him in.
Joe has heard me say it a million times. I think this goes back to when I was playing. I think a wide receiver crew — I think a receiving corps in general is only as good as their third receiver. I would say that maybe in some ways that’s in today’s game it might be they’re only as good as their fourth receiver because it’s all about match-ups.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a wide receiver, but a tight end who can beat people one-on-one is really important. To have someone who can work the middle of the field, those guys are a security blanket for any quarterback, but especially a young one.
You didn’t ask this, but I’ll add to it that I think last year Philadelphia really early on went through a stage where they didn’t quite know what their identity was and trying to find their way. Then they found it. You know, they found their formula for being successful.
That’s going to carry them, I think, very well into this year through the offseason. What they are going to be when the season kicks off. We had them in the playoff game against Tampa Bay. Obviously, not their best performance, but for them to get to that game based on what it looked like at one point early last season was, you know, successful in my opinion.
I like Dallas. I like Philadelphia. I like what they’ve done, and I expect them to certainly be competing in that division.
This question is for Stephanie. You talked about the whiteboard at the end of the regular season and bringing in a booth. I don’t think it was a secret that ESPN was always open to upgrading their — no offense to the other three guys who had that role previously, but why was there that urgency this offseason to go and get these two broadcasters who some considered at the top of the business right now?
STEPHANIE DRULEY: I wouldn’t call it urgency. I would call it opportunity. We were in the short-term comfortable with where we were, and then opportunity presented itself.
Troy’s deal being up and, you know, it’s only natural when you do have a property like Monday Night Football you’re going to explore the people that are out there and available. Troy’s deal was up, and that’s sort of how we got there.
If you had told me last year at the end of the season that I would be sitting here today, I would not have believed that because I think we were in a place where we were building a team, but still thinking about long-term and what long-term looked like, and the opportunity was there.
I think it was far from urgent. There was a lot of serendipitous occurrences that had to happen to get us here today.
And then for Troy: You had said on the “Marchand and Ourand” podcast that you went pretty far down the line with Amazon and doing two games a week might have been in the cards for you. Obviously, one game here. What advice would you have for your new colleague, Kirk Herbstreit, who is going to do two games? And I guess Joe, if you want to jump in, too, as someone who did two games a week for a while and what kind of that preparation looks like and how you guys went about it, and I guess the relief of only having to do one now?
TROY AIKMAN: It’s a lot. I’ve talked to Kirk. I consider Kirk a friend. We visited through the process. We talked after he got the Amazon job.
Having been on that schedule, as Joe touched on a little bit earlier, we’re doing a Sunday/Thursday. He is doing a Thursday/Saturday. I guess the good thing for Amazon is they get a fresh Kirk Herbstreit on Thursday.
For “Game Day” and the game, it will be a lot. It’s a lot, but he is a real pro. Anyone who has been around him knows that. I mean, he is relentless in his preparation, which is the only way you can tackle this.
I mean, if you are not one of those guys, you get exposed just because the viewers know. You can’t fool people. I don’t know that you ever could, but you damn sure can’t now. They just know way too much.
How he manages all that, I don’t have that advice for him, but he will do it. I know he has been busy already. I think he has a podcast. I know he has done radio. He is doing already “Game Day,” and sometimes “Game Day” is not where the actual game is that he is calling. It is a lot.
I don’t envy him. I will say that. Because for the last four years the schedule that we’ve kept, it’s grueling. Nobody cares. The viewers at home don’t care, nor should they, but I don’t know that anyone — I don’t even know that people in the industry realize how much preparation goes into broadcasting a one football game during the week, let alone trying to double up with two games in one week.
I thought they sounded great last week when I heard them. Love him on “Game Day.” Love him doing the games. I’m a big fan.
JOE BUCK: I remember when Troy and I were doing Thursday/Sunday, Thursday/Sunday during all those October, and he and I were doing baseball together. No, wait, that was just me.
TROY AIKMAN: (Laughing).
JOE BUCK: Yeah, you can do it. You just talk. You know? You stay up on top of stuff, and you read on planes, and you don’t sleep a lot during certain times, and by the way, you also have a family and whatever else is going on. You can do it, and he can do it.
He is one of those guys that I think could do anything in this business. He could do play-by-play, I believe. He is that talented.
Yeah, like Troy said, it’s a lot, and football, you know, for the analysts, and this would be Troy’s rebuttal to me — the analyst has a different job, and he is looking at trends and what different players are doing and who is playing well, who is not, and looking at game film and all that stuff. But at the same time, I think if you are a talented broadcaster and there’s no more talented broadcaster than either the guy on this screen that I’m looking at or Kirk, they can handle it. He will be okay. He will be tired, but he will be okay.
Troy, I wanted ask you, we haven’t seen Russell Wilson take a snap in a preseason game at all. Hardly any of the Denver starters did. Hackett came from Green Bay where that was a philosophy as well. I’m wondering what your take is on that. Sometimes teams tend to not hit the ground running in September; more of an extended training camp. What would it have been like in your playing days to go into an opener without having to take any snaps or heard the coach in your ear in a game?
TROY AIKMAN: Are you in Denver?
I am.
TROY AIKMAN: Yeah, I would not have — I wouldn’t have liked it, quite honestly. I mean, I guess times change. Maybe if I was playing in today’s game, I would feel differently, but I needed the work.
I just felt like I needed it. I felt like our team needed it. Our offense needed it to get out there and play and just get back into the swing of things.
I don’t know. I’m a little old-school in my approach. I think that if the whole approach of training camp is to keep people healthy, then let’s not have preseason. Then coaches will say, yeah, but we need preseason in order to evaluate these players.
Colleges don’t have preseason, and they evaluate their players. If you are a good coach and you can evaluate talent, you can evaluate a player in practice and know whether or not he is better than the player playing next to him and who is going to be on that roster.
Obviously, it’s all a money thing for the NFL. So I’m not someone who is in favor of decisions like that being made just for the bottom line, so I don’t know that preseason is great for anybody, quite honestly.
How they’ll do? I think with the approach, because we have seen teams do it with the success of the Rams and others who have rested players throughout. I think McVay might have been the first one to do it a few years ago with the Rams where he just simply didn’t play anybody, and then we’ve seen the success that they’ve had and then, of course, being the defending Super Bowl champs.
Bill Belichick, for instance, he approaches the first four games as an extension of training camp. Now, they generally win, as we know. They’ll begin the month of September and be 3-1, 4-0, whatever it is. They’re able to evaluate and develop players while they’re still winning. Not everybody over the years has been able to do that.
So I would expect that for Denver, I would expect there to be some things that they just aren’t quite as good at early in the year just because of the timing and the things that go into being successful offensively.
The reason I asked if you were from Denver is because I made a point the other day of really watching KJ Hamler from that preseason game the other day, and I know he got hurt last year and hadn’t played. Hackett didn’t want him to play, but he insisted because he felt like he needed the work. I thought he looked fantastic. I mean, fantastic. I said, wow, this guy, he could have had a hell of a game if he had gotten the ball.
Anyway, that’s kind of my position on it. I’m a little surprised that for a new quarterback and new group that they didn’t get at least a series at some point, but, you know, I understand why Hackett took the approach he did.
Troy, this is for you. I know, obviously, it’s a very different Ravens team than the one in 2019, but the offense has kind of fallen off the past two years. A lot of it has been injuries.
I guess when you kind of look 20,000 foot view, what are you hoping to see from this offense, from a strategic perspective, and how hopeful are you that they can kind of get back to some of those heights from a couple of years ago?
TROY AIKMAN: I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m not as up on the Ravens as you are going to wish I was, but I am curious about what’s happening with Lamar and the contract. I mean, what kind of impact that is going to have on Lamar, on the team, and everything that goes with it? I am interested in that. Beyond that, I will just be honest with you, I haven’t dove into Baltimore and what I expect of them yet.
For Joe, for Lisa, for Troy: What makes this property really unique? What are you most excited about calling this and for Joe and Troy moving over from Fox? Then Joe, as well, would you ever consider moving outside the “Monday Night” property in terms of calling games, like for other sports? I know you did baseball in the past. Would you want to do that again for ESPN?
JOE BUCK: Yeah, no, I’m not thinking that at this point. I think it will be other projects that I’m working on that has me in the role of a producer or somebody that you don’t see. That’s kind of the immediate future for me.
I would never say never, but I think I’m pretty good with just calling football the rest of my life or the rest of my career I should say, which hopefully doesn’t turn into the rest of my life (Laughing). Let me just be honest with that right now.
I think when that theme song hits, I’ll get chills, and that comes from being a 53-year-old man, which is at least 41 years older — you look like a very young person, but —
I’m 21.
JOE BUCK: How old are you?
I’m 21.
JOE BUCK: Yeah, okay. Well, there you go. I was doing Cardinal Baseball when I was 21, so there’s that. Take that.
But I think for people of a certain generation when you hear that theme song, and, you know, back in the day with the yellow jackets and the pomp and circumstance and kind of the craziness that happened at “Monday Night Football,” it just has always been something in my mind as somebody who grew up as the son of a Hall of Fame broadcaster, like, this is the pinnacle of being in any booth anywhere. That includes World Series. That includes NBA Finals. That includes NHL Finals, Stanley Cup Finals. That includes anything.
When that music hits and Troy and Lisa and John and I are presenting these games on a stand-alone night, it’s going to be extremely special. I trust that that’s not hyperbole. That’s how I feel. I cannot wait to get going.
I’m so tired of thinking about it, and I’m so tired of waiting for it. I just want to go. I’m thankful that we’re almost in September, and we’re a week and a half away.
TROY AIKMAN: Yeah. I kind of talked about it a little bit earlier, just what “Monday Night” meant to me as a kid, but I think the thing that has made this pretty unique for us is I understand that it’s not the Super Bowl. We don’t have the Super Bowl audience every week, but in some ways it kind of feels that way because it’s the only game on. Lisa can talk about that more because she’s been doing this. She understands what it’s like to be the only game on.
Yeah, we did it on Thursday nights for the last four years, but obviously, that’s far different. It’s not even a comparison.
To be at ESPN where it’s the only game on their network and the pride that they have in this property and what they are willing to do to make this property a success and what it means in their portfolio of events is something that we’ve never experienced. Joe and I have not experienced that before.
Yeah, we’ve done the game of the week, and we’ve done big games, but there’s six other games, seven other games on the network. So for all of the attention that this network to be on this game and this property, you can feel that. I felt that in my first conversation with Jimmy Pitaro. I felt when we went and visited the campus in Bristol, which was my first time, by the way, and it was fantastic. I felt it every step of the way.
Kind of like what Joe said, we’ve been with ESPN now for several months, and we keep waiting, and now it’s finally here, and it’s really exciting. Just can’t wait.
Just looking forward to it and know it’s going to be a great year.
LISA SALTERS: I’m just as excited, but I also am going to really get into this last week of summer vacation because it’s not going to come around again until June.
You guys are absolutely right. There is just something about “Monday Night.” Friends ask me all the time, what do you prefer to cover, the NBA or the NFL? As much as I love the NBA, and I absolutely love it, there is nothing like being in a stadium with 80,000 people every Monday night.
It is like prepping for the Super Bowl. It’s like an exam. You’re preparing for an exam every week, and you’re preparing for the Super Bowl every week because it’s the only game on. There’s nothing like it.
Mike Tirico told me back in 2012 when that music hits, he is, like, You’re going to feel something, and I did. And he said, You’re going to feel it in the years down the road for as long as you do it. He was absolutely right.
Even hearing it in Seattle when we weren’t even doing the game, hearing that theme song, there’s nothing like it. I can’t wait for you guys to hear it on the 12th.
JOE BUCK: Derek, let me just say — not Derek Volner — I’m just jealous you’re 21. I’m old now. I used to be the young guy on these calls. Live long and prosper. You’re going to kill it, and thank you for your question.
I appreciate that. Thank you, everyone.
DEREK VOLNER: That is a perfect way to end this. We appreciate everyone joining the call. As mentioned, there will be a transcript and recording available later today. Troy, Lisa, Stephanie, and Joe, appreciate your time. We’ll see each other on Monday night, September 12th, Denver at Seattle for the season premiere of “Monday Night Football.” Appreciate it, everybody.
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