It's been a weird week with the NFL and some of the weirdness has surrounded decisions made both by the NFL and by Fox Sports to keep Panthers tight end Greg Olsen on this week's broadcast team covering the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams game.
The Vikings first brought the concern to the league requesting that Olsen, a current but injured member of the Carolina Panthers, be removed from the broadcast team as he will soon be activated off of the injured reserve. Oh and the little detail that the Vikings will head to Carolina to take on the Panthers in a matter of weeks.
Fox has opted to remove Olsen from the coaches meetings with the broadcast team and will not allow him to attend the team's walkthrough later in the week, but they've made the decision to keep him on the broadcast despite the concerns.
Many of you have noted that with the two exclusive opportunities being withheld from Olsen's access, there really is no remaining issues since he'll likely review accessible game tape anyways. That's a good point, but here's why it's still an issue to have Olsen in on the broadcast.
This is a little peek behind the curtain of an NFL broadcast but if the television broadcast is anything like the radio broadcast there are certainly advantages to be had, and I know that the two mediums are similar in these ways.
First, Olsen is to be kept away from the coaches meeting and the walkthrough to protect sensitive information from an opponent. That's admitting that there is some sort of a problem here. That's a great preventative step to take if you can guarantee that none of the learned information will make it's way back to Olsen. That's a pipe dream as the rest of the broadcast team will take all of this sensitive information with them back to production meetings in which Olsen will be taking part. At that point it is second hand information but it's still semi-sensitive information.
Secondly, Olsen will be wired into the internal communications network between his booth partners Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis. He'll also be looped into a line of communication, however one sided, with Pam Oliver on the sidelines and any producer in the truck that wants in on the action. Both Burkhardt and Davis will be privy to a coaches meeting later this week that Olsen has been barred from as well as the team's closed walkthrough. Whether or not details get mentioned on the airwaves, there are certainly conversations that are mentioned off the air during commercial breaks and breaks in the action where Olsen could learn new information. It's conjecture, it's planning for what's upcoming and it 100% will happen this weekend with Olsen present in the booth listening and observing.
Finally, Pam Oliver will be the eyes on the sideline for the broadcast team. That line of communication runs throughout the entire game, not only for the 10 second hits that we see on the broadcast. Those conversations could cover injuries, relationships, decisions and all sorts of little tidbits that eyes and ears on the field level could have. NFL players or team reps would never be offered the opportunity to sit on their opponents sidelines during a game.
While these small pieces of the bigger puzzle might not seem like much, they assuredly offer the Panthers the slightest bit of a competitive advantage that the Minnesota Vikings will not be offered in any way. That is precisely why the league should step in and disallow Olsen from being a part of this specific broadcast team.
Fox is broadcasting five other NFL games this weekend and three of them do not feature a future 2017 opponent of the Carolina Panthers (DET @ CHI, AZ @ HOU, BUF @ LAC). Why would it not be an easy solution to reassign Olsen to one of those games? Or better yet, how about we not open the door to a player who is presently a member of another NFL team just in case those teams meet in the playoffs or Super Bowl?
Either take the easy way out and move him or as Twitter follower Kevin noted, add Sam Bradford to the broadcast for next weekend's Panthers game to level the playing field.