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Sports Media

Now it’s talk nation

Former Patriots burn up airways

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / September 16, 2011

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With his much-discussed admonition of Chad Ochocinco to “drop the awe factor’’ and “stop tweeting and get in your playbook,’’ ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi rocketed to the top of the charts as the most prominent ex-Patriot in the electronic media.

But he’s far from the only one. In fact, if you dedicated any significant amount of time to getting reacquainted with the NFL during its opening week, it was virtually impossible not to notice not only how many former Patriots have made the transition to media careers, but how many have done it extraordinarily well.

While sometimes it seems that every ex-player of some accomplishment ends up on TV - the NFL Network has more than 50 ex-players contributing - the Patriot connections are remarkable.

A check of the rosters includes Bruschi at ESPN, where he has shown a knack for explaining complex football concepts in an accessible way. In the offseason, ESPN also hired Bill Parcells and another analyst with recent Patriots ties, albeit severed ones, in the surprisingly engaging Eric Mangini.

There’s Rodney Harrison, who, just as he was as an NFL safety for 15 years, is all over the place. Harrison is Tony Dungy’s frequent foil on NBC’s “Football Night in America’’ and also is a regular on the NFL Network, which features ex-Patriots Willie McGinest and Heath Evans in prominent roles.

Harrison will be contributing locally to Comcast SportsNet New England’s enjoyable “Quick Slants’’ program this season. CSNNE, which already features the much-improved Troy Brown, also pulled off something of a coup by landing Ty Law, who made an impressive debut Monday reporting from Miami.

There are several others - Rosevelt Colvin, Christian Fauria, and Matt Chatham - who have found success in a media role. That so many players come from the franchise’s past decade of success might come as a surprise, given coach Bill Belichick’s public reticence and a general culture among the players of avoiding controversial comments.

But Evans, who played fullback for the Patriots from 2005-08, emphasized that Belichick is partially responsible for his former players’ success in the media, since he brings in players who are typically bright and well-spoken, even if not necessarily outspoken.

“I think it all goes back to Bill, and obviously earlier, Scott Pioli, just the way that they bring in players, thoughtful and intelligent,’’ said Evans. “They look the part, clean-cut, blue-collar, All-American, well-spoken. Guys that pay attention at meetings, guys who know their stuff and can articulate it well.

“Obviously, Tedy and I and Rodney and so many of us owe a lot to the wisdom that was imparted to us by Coach Belichick. There’s an aspect in this job that I owe to Bill for the knowledge that he gave me about football in the four years that I was with him.’’

Evans, who majored in communications at Auburn, knew he wanted a post-NFL career in the media by the time he joined the Patriots. Of course, that’s not something Belichick was particularly interested in knowing.

“Belichick, back in 2007-2008, would kid around about, ‘Do you ever shut your mouth with the media,’ I’d say, ‘Some of us have to plan for a life after football. I’m going to need a job one day.’

“I was kidding at the time, but I always knew that I’ve got to provide for my family.’’

It was different for Brown, the popular, dependable wide receiver from 1993-2007. Not only does he admit that he didn’t give consideration to a media career until his playing days were waning, but he says he wasn’t particularly good with the media himself.

“I was always reluctant to talk myself,’’ Brown said. “I just didn’t think I had a whole lot interesting to say. But as I got along in my career, I started thinking about it as a way to stay around sports.

“The first choice was coaching, but the hours you have to dedicate to that leave you with little time for the important stuff. So I gave it a try. The feedback has been really good, though I guess fans who liked me as a player might be biased.’’

Brown said that candor has come easier as he gets further from his playing days, and his forthrightness in telling an anecdote has become a strength. His recent recollection of his refusal to go head to head with cornerback Chris Canty in practice because the first-round bust was too easy to beat was the kind of insight fans appreciate.

“I know I’m not going to be giving away anything in the playbook,’’ said Brown, “and the mind-set that I might be letting something slip Belichick doesn’t want out is long gone.

“Whether I’m on TV or the radio, I’ve realized it’s just about great discussion, sharing my opinion, telling stories. When you think about it that way, it’s really enjoyable.’’

Twitchy about tweets Even putting aside the Bruschi-Ochocinco sports radio fodder, this week proved a particularly eventful one in Twitter’s ever-evolving relationship with professional sports.

Yesterday, at roughly the same hour the NHL announced a policy of banning players and other league personnel from tweeting before, during, and immediately after games as well as during practice, ESPN’s Amy K. Nelson revealed that Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison had filed a grievance against the team for a “wrongful demotion’’ to the minor leagues in August.

Morrison, a prolific and popular presence on Twitter, has frustrated the Marlins’ front office with his candor and was reportedly asked by team president David Samson to tone down his tweets this season.

Indirectly, Morrison’s situation makes one wonder how effective the NHL policy will really be, considering Major League Baseball (as well as the NFL and NBA) has had a similar policy in place for a few years.

No big deal “Monday Night Football’’ analyst Ron Jaworski’s unfortunate word choice during the Patriots’ victory over the Dolphins was more surprising - in a “did he just say what I thought he said?’’ way - than anything else. Judging by the instant reaction on Twitter, most viewers initially thought it was Jon Gruden. Though the presumption is that some ESPN viewers let the network know that they found the slipup distasteful, given that Jaworski apologized a few moments later, it was minor compared with the network’s more egregious offenses, beginning with the foisting of Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd on the viewing public on a regular basis.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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