NFL Network Hauls in Irvin for Sundays
More proof that the NFL's own channel isn't a house organ afraid of risking controversy: The NFL Network will formally announce today that Michael Irvin will become one of its lead Sunday studio analysts.
Irvin's TV career seemed on hold indefinitely in February 2007, when ESPN didn't pick up the option on his contract.
His tenure there, which began in 2003, had sometimes been edgy. It included being suspended briefly in 2005 after a misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia - which ESPN heard about from an inquiring reporter rather than from Irvin himself - and oddly suggesting on ESPN Radio that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's speed might have resulted from a maternal ancestor mating with a slave.
But Irvin was upbeat as he left ESPN, saying he was interested in acting - he'd been in the movie The Longest Yard - and needed more career "leeway" than he'd get there.
Now, however, Irvin says the key to his interest in TV involves his sons' football games. Son Michael, entering seventh grade, and Elijah, in sixth grade, are scheduled to play games that won't conflict with Sunday TV duties.
He recalls son Michael, seeing him getting ready to leave his Dallas-area home to go to ESPN years ago, asking his father whether he would ever be around to watch him play. Irvin answered that he was working hard so his son wouldn't face anything like his own impoverished childhood.
"And there we were in our 20,000-square-foot home, and he says, 'Dad, what are you talking about?' " Irvin said. "It was what the Bible calls a revelatory gift."
Plus, the NFL Network job won't conflict with Irvin's dancing: He says he practices three hours each morning, and often more at night, to prepare to be on ABC's Dancing With the Stars this season.
Irvin, after Sunday taping a preview show that will serve as his NFL Network debut when it airs Sept. 9, sounds ready to opine.
Irvin suggests that for the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick to compare NFL quarterbacking to riding a bike - you never forget how - wasn't so smart:
"Does (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell want you to be the star of the league early? I don't think so. Somebody should have gotten to Vick and said, 'Let's be humble.' "
And what if by, say, Week 6 the Eagles find themselves in a quarterback controversy over whether to sub in Vick for starter Donovan McNabb? Says Irvin: "I'm not sure you're going to have to wait that long."
So why did McNabb supposedly lobby the team to sign Vick? "I had to question that," Irvin says. "Did McNabb go to (the team) about Vick, or did they come to him?"
And when it comes to Brett Favre, Irvin says, "It's time to speak the truth." Which, he says, is that it's not anybody's guess whether Favre can turn the Minnesota Vikings into contenders. "The reality, as we all know, is that we've all been enablers here. Never has a quarterback not gone to a full training camp and then gone to a Super Bowl. It's never happened and never will happen, and I thank the football gods it won't happen. . . . So don't tell me it's anybody's guess. We know what will happen. But we love Brett Favre so much we won't say it, and it helped pressure Minnesota to get him."
One thing NFL Network won't have to worry about with Irvin on-air: Whether he'll speak up.
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