CBS Sports Chief Talks Concussion Coverage, 'Thursday Night Football' Future

Matt Furman
Sean McManus

"CBS has never shied away from covering player safety."

Though the CBS Sports team was on hand Tuesday to hype February's Super Bowl, reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour were most curious about the future of Thursday Night Football.

The network has been sharing telecasts of eight mid-week games a season for the past two years with the National Football League's own cable channel, but the latest one-off contract has come to an end and the NFL is now weighing multiple proposals.

"In late December, the NFL sent out a request for proposal to the networks asking for our bids both from financial, production and promotional plans," said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. "They did ask us to express our interest in both an exclusive for eight weeks and a shared package."

That means there exists a possibility of Thursday Night Football hopping networks for the first eight weeks of the season. "We'd like to renew," explained McManus. "Thursday Night Football has been a great success for us. We are in a wait-and-see period right now. The NFL will get back to us when they decide what's best for them."

Thursday Night Football also brought questions about player enthusiasm for the relatively new franchise — questions CBS sportscaster Phil Simms quickly brushed off. "That's not true at all," Simms said when asked about how the players don't like playing on Thursdays. "Last year, they were crying a little bit about it. This year, they did not complain at all. It's one game a year."

Player safety has cast a pall over the NFL in recent years, albeit one that is not alienating viewers, but the subject has become a fixture at Q&As like the one at Tuesday's TCA press tour. And McManus did not shy away from the c-word — concussion — when it came up. "Most of the reporting we're doing on those kinds of issues is in the pre-game show," he said. "CBS has never shied away from covering player safety and the concussion [issue]."
 
There is a time and a place for those subject matters, per McManus, and that will likely begin and end in the pre-game.

On the occasion of his appearance in Los Angeles, the exec also offered nothing but enthusiasm for the likelihood of a NFL team moving to the famously football-free city.

"With respect to the NFL having a presence in the second-largest market in America, it would be a net positive for us if it was an AFC team," said McManus, referring to the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams. "We would look at that only as a positive. I think it's very likely they'll have a decision about a team today."

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