NFL Rebroadcast Lets The Players Do The Talking

For all those football fans who think watching the game would be great if it weren't for those annoying announcers, the NFL Network is about to put that theory to the test. Saturday, the channel will re-air one of the games from Thanksgiving WITHOUT the announcers. Almost all of the voices will be provided by the players and coaches themselves. Host Audie Cornish speaks with Rob Gehring, the man behind the project.

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AUDIE CORNISH, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

For many Americans, football is as much a part of Thanksgiving weekend as turkey and mashed potatoes. And on Thursday, fans were treated to more than nine hours of it.

Unidentified Man #1: Antonio Cromartie with his third interception of the season.

Unidentified Man #2: And this is what's going to be called Quarter's Cup. You divide the field in quarters.

CORNISH: Team rivalries can sometimes split families apart, but everyone seems to agree on one thing: those play-by-play guys can be annoying.

Unidentified Man #1: Is that quarters coverage?

Unidentified Man #2: That was quarters.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, well, 75 cents was - had a shot at it back there.

CORNISH: Tonight, the NFL Network is trying something different - it's rebroadcasting one of Thursday's games without the announcers. The commentary during the game will come largely from the people on the field, the players, coaches and referees, all providing their own narrative.

Unidentified Man #3: Thursday Night Football, all eyes on us. Everybody's watching. The whole world is watching.

Mr. REX RYAN (Head Coach, New York Jets): Here come the New York Jets, baby. Here we go.

CORNISH: Rob Gehring is the producer behind this massive project, and I caught him in between edits at the NFL Films complex in New Jersey. More than anyone watching the game this past Thanksgiving, Gehring had the inside scoop.

Mr. ROB GEHRING: We're talking about, you know, 13 players and coaches wired, and I actually had all 13 wires at my disposal. And so I could listen to every wire that was happening live. So I was making notes to myself kind of from a storytelling standpoint to start to figure out, okay, what are the great things that I'm hearing? What do I want to make sure is going to be in the show?

Unidentified Man #4: Keep the hammer on these guys. Keep pounding these back. If they get through the line, make sure and tackle him.

CORNISH: The game pitted the New York Jets against the Cincinnati Bengals. The two teams boast some of the biggest personalities in the NFL. Jets head coach Rex Ryan can be charitably described as uninhibited. And the Bengals have a wide receiver with his own reality TV show: Chad Ochocinco.

Mr. GEHRING: Ocho came by that sideline a lot, and he chirped a pretty good amount. Him and Rex had some really good, fun, loving exchanges. In fact, Ochocinco talked a lot throughout the whole game. You really get an idea of the emotion involved. They have this passion for it, and you don't get that in a TV broadcast, I don't think.

CORNISH: So what does Rob Gehring hope to accomplish by taking away the play-by-play announcers?

Mr. GEHRING: I think what I want people to take from this is a little bit more of a connection to the players. And I think being able to hear what these guys go through during a game, I just think it's really invaluable for you to be able to appreciate what NFL football is all about.

Mr. RYAN: Got a touchdown. He's got a touchdown. Go, go, go, Brad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #5: The Jets are soaring high, baby.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: The NFL Network will air its announcer-less game tonight at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. Producer Rob Gehring is probably still hard at work on it.

Mr. GEHRING: We've had all hands on deck here since about two or three o'clock in the morning on Friday morning right after the game, and we've pretty much just been working non-stop since. But we've made our way through it all and we're hoping that it's something really special for the audience.

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