Don't expect Fox NFL Sunday analyst Michael Strahan to embrace an… (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )
The "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame show with Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson and Curt Menefee kicked off the season Sunday at Fox studios in Los Angeles in the usual way — an hour of football talk among friends, some joking, game analysis, news and perspective.
Bradshaw, the four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, shook hands with his associates before the lights flashed on and barked "Showtime!" as the crew dissected Week 1.
ESPN has expanded its pregame show to three hours. Why should football fans watch your show instead?
Bradshaw: "We're better than everyone else. Wait, that doesn't sound right. We're good friends here, and you see that. We don't have as much time, but I will tell you we all study huge stacks of [research] papers on each game. We're all making calls to guys in the league. We have that information in us and work it in with humor, some shots at each other — it's ad-libbed, fast-paced. I don't want a three-hour pregame show. Our attitude is, 'Let's get to the point, entertain and get it out.' Then we have, 'The OT,' at the end, which can be the most exciting part of our day."
You were there alongside quarterback Aaron Rodgers as he completed his breakthrough season and gathered the Lombardi Trophy in February. I'm sure you watch quarterbacks more than any position. Which one is most capable of accomplishing the Super Bowl breakthrough this year?
Bradshaw: "The guy I love is [Philip] Rivers in San Diego. He's already a star, who, if he can get his team off to a good early start for once, has the chance to prove he's a big-time player. There are about six or seven quarterbacks you can throw a blanket over — like maybe Atlanta's Matt Ryan will step it up — but Rivers has all the intangibles and he has the experience. Experience is huge. He's ready."
The NFL has shortened kickoffs, scaled back off-season work … is it making football too soft?
Long: "There's nothing soft about the NFL, trust me. It can be like NASCAR. It translates well on TV, but you don't get it until you sit on Turn 3 watching how fast these men are driving these powerful machines. The game has gotten so big and fast now. … As far as the changes, I get the distinct impression the league would like to eliminate kickoffs. The league wants to cut down on injuries for the virtuous reason, but I also think that in a year or two, you'll hear them start bringing up an 18-game schedule again. It's like when they cut back on the [organized team activities] and practices. It's for the players' reasons, but it could also be prepping to negotiate the longer schedule."
Your son plays on the Rams and you won a Super Bowl with the Raiders. Which team does better this year?
Long: "Can we go to question B? The only explanation I have if I have to answer is that blood is thicker than a contract. I'm hopeful the Rams will have a better year. When you're so young and building talent, you can't afford the injuries they had. I like how the Raiders pound the ball … they have that 1-2 punch of [Darren] McFadden and [Michael] Bush. The Raiders will always have speed and size. They just need to find a way to win the winnable games and cut down on penalties. It comes down to quarterback play and how smart you can be."
Some of your peers are now lining up to sue the NFL over head injuries they suffered while playing. Who do you support in these cases?
Strahan: "This never goes away. You're wearing helmets, but you're running into people full speed. As a player, you know this will affect you long before it got to this. It's not like new equipment will change it. Something has to give in these collisions, and unfortunately, it's your brain. I want the league to do as much as it can for players — I don't want them to throw away the guys who are done and tell them, 'You're out of the league,' — but there's only so much you can do."
The New York Giants' defense is a shambles with all of these preseason injuries they've suffered. Have you been contacted about coming back?
Strahan: "I believe my name's been crossed off the board for a long time now. If they do call me, I better hear the sound of a cash register ringing before anyone on the other end even says hello."