Scott Zolak, Bob Socci move to TV for Patriots preseason games

They will be joined by former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich as a sideline-based third voice.

Scott Zolak
Scott Zolak once a backup quarterback for the New England Patriots, during his weekly sports talk radio show broadcast. –M. Scott Brauer/The New York Times

The voices on Patriots preseason television broadcasts this fall will sound familiar. The twist is that they will be the the voices usually heard coming from the radio on game day.

Bob Socci and Scott Zolak, the play-by-play voice and color analyst on flagship station 98.5 The Sports Hub’s regular season Patriots broadcasts, will call the team’s preseason games on Channel 4 this season.

They will be joined by former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich as a sideline-based third voice.

Dan Roche and Matt Chatham, who were part of Ch. 4’s broadcast team the last few preseasons, will handle the radio call on The Sports Hub during the preseason. Socci and Zolak will return to their radio roles for the regular season games.


“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for the last couple of years, really just to get associated with Socci and Zolak,’’ said Matt Smith, executive producer for Kraft Sports Productions. “They’re the guys that are doing every game [during the season] and know the team inside and out. I thought it made sense to have them do the preseason games.’’

Said Mike Thomas, program director at 98.5 The Sports Hub: “The benefit is that it gets the guys on a different platform and some exposure on TV, expanding their brands. That’s good for everyone.’’

In recent years on the TV side, Roche, Chatham and Christian Fauria (who, as a WEEI host, isn’t part of this) did not call the game in a conventional way once the core players were out of the game.

Instead, they would casually discuss roster possibilities and other topics rather than rely on play-by-play.

Smith said the broadcast will continue to take that approach with Socci, Zolak and Ninkovich on the call.

“The people who are watching the game – and our numbers are really good in the preseason – are hard core fans. They know who plays and who doesn’t play.

“So you see Tom Brady for a couple of series and then he’s out, but there is still plenty to discuss that these fans really care about. Who is going to be the sixth receiver? Who is going to be the fourth running back? Who’s the backup at left tackle. You need people that really know the team and can sit there and talk about it.


“Frankly, I think it would be a little bit insulting to treat those games like they’re regular season games. Because it’s not the same. It isn’t.’’

Smith said he believes Zolak’s knack for recognizing the details in what the Patriots offense in particular is trying to do will be a great asset to the broadcasts.

“Scott has a huge following and it’s all well-deserved, but I think a lot of times he gets lumped into, ‘Oh, Scott’s just a homer,’ when he’s doing a home-team broadcast anyway,’’ said Smith. “If you really listen to him, some of the stuff that he does digs very deep into the details. He knows what he’s seeing, and he often knows what’s coming the moment the ball is snapped.’’

Patriots Football Weekly writers Paul Perillo and Andy Hart will continue to be part of the broadcast, providing commentary and analysis from a studio.

The Patriots open the preseason at home Aug. 9 against Washington at 7:30 p.m.


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