Nate Burleson, an 11-year NFL vet, has joined The NFL Today, CBS Sports’ longtime pregame studio show.
The Calgary native hasn’t stopped pinching himself yet.
“I’m thankful to be on this platform, which is one of the most rich traditions when it comes to shows in all of sports,” Burleson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Just the cast of people, you look at James Brown, Boom (Boomer Esiason), Coach (Bill Cowher), Phil (Simms) – I just feel like this young kid from Seattle who happened to just sneak onto the set. I’m blessed, man. I’m looking forward to it.”
Burleson, 35, is the youngest person on The NFL Today team – by more than two decades. Esiason, 56, is the next youngest. Everyone else? Sixth and older.
“It’s generational, and I think that’s where the dynamic works,” Burleson said. “You have all these different guys that see the game from different viewpoints, and if we can express and article the lens we see the game through, it makes for good TV. I think when they were trying to figure out the dynamic of the show, they realized that they’re going to have an opinionated group of guys that’s not going to sit there and high-five and hug about every single topic. If there’s a conversation to be had and a debate to be had, guess what? We’re going to have that, and we’re going to have it very passionately. Everybody is going to back it up with stories of experience, X’s and O’s, and validate those things with how we get our point across. That’s something that I think came across during auditions.”
Burleson, who spent time at the NFL Network, auditioned for The NFL Today and found the on-camera discourse highly engaging.
“I remember thinking in my head, ‘If I was sitting at home and this was live on TV, I wouldn’t turn the channel,’” Burleson said. “That’s when I knew that I would at least have a chance of getting the role.”
Burleson then opened up about some of his issues with today’s game – or better yet, today’s player.
“I do feel like some of these young guys that come in, there’s so many pats on the back and high praises that they get before they get in the league that in so many ways they feel like they made it,” Burleson said. “I came in in ’03, so by no means am I old-school. But I do know when I came in – whether you’re a first-rounder or a seventh-rounder, a free agent, whether you’ve been on the roster or you’re trying to make the team – you did everything and more. You set up, you didn’t talk as much, you opened your ears, you opened your eyes, and then you followed suit of the vets. Nowadays with the addition of social media and these guys already being superstars in their own right and having a half of a million followers before they even step on the field – they’re stars. And it oftentimes can lead to the detriment of some guys that can have promising careers.”
Burleson spent time in Cleveland in 2014, when Johnny Manziel was a rookie.
“I remember looking at Johnny, and I’m thinking, ‘Okay, I get it. I get why there’s hype about this young man,’” Burleson recalled. “But then I also completely understood why everything else was important in his life because he was a superstar. When you are friends with LeBron and Drake and you can hop on a private jet and go put your shoes on the sideline or court-side of a playoff game while teams are in mini-camp, how important is it to go over the playbok a third time or a fourth time over the weekend before you go party? So I wasn’t mad at the young man for kind of making those decisions. What I was mad at is that we might have seen a different type of Johnny if football trumped everything else, if football was more important than everything else, if the superstar of the young man didn’t stunt his growth as a rookie.
“So that’s the one thing that bothers me,” Burleson continued. “The hunger is just different. The money’s great. We’re blessed to play this game and the money’s going to get higher and higher, but even before me in the ’90s and the ’80s, when those dollars came in, that meant something. That meant everything. There wasn’t anything else that made (players) feel any better (about themselves like) Twitter followers or your shoe deal or commercials. Football was everything. I want to hopefully somehow get that message back to the new generation.”