Monday's NFL: Peyton Manning teams up with brother, ESPN for MNF MegaCast

By Joe Reedy
Associated Press

ESPN has finally landed Peyton Manning as a “Monday Night Football” commentator. It's just not in a way anyone expected, and it won't be for the full season.

Walt Disney Company announced on Monday a partnership with Manning and his Omaha Productions company in which Peyton and Eli Manning will be part of a “Monday Night Football” MegaCast for 10 games a year the next three seasons.

Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning throws the ceremonial first pitch prior to the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Denver.

Manning, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month, has long been rumored as a “Monday Night Football” commentator since he retired after the 2015 season, but the sides were never able to reach an agreement. Now fans will be able to get his views, albeit in a different format and with his brother, who retired last year after leading the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships.

The Manning's MegaCast will debut the first three weeks of this season, including the Sept. 13 opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders, with the remaining seven weeks to be announced. It will air on ESPN2 and be streamed on ESPN+ while the standard broadcast will be on ESPN and/or ABC.

The MNF crew of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters and John Parry will return for a second season.

MegaCasts had been a staple of ESPN's coverage of the College Football Playoffs before it expanded to the NFL last year. The Week 2 game between the New Orleans Saints and Raiders averaged 15.59 million viewers on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, which was one of the most-watched MNF games of the season. ESPN also brought back the MegaCast for the wild-card round game between Baltimore and the Tennessee Titans.

ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement that the MegaCast is designed to be a great complement to the traditional telecast. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in April when the league finalized its new 11-year broadcast agreements that the networks would have more leeway for alternate broadcasts.

Amazon, which will become the exclusive outlet for “Thursday Night Football” beginning in 2022, had alternate presentations during its simulcasts with Fox last season. CBS did a kids-focused broadcast of the wild-card game between the Chicago Bears and Saints.

“Offering multiple viewing options for the next three seasons continues our innovation efforts and provides additional value for our fans,” Pitaro said. “Peyton and Eli will bring a different approach, delving into conversation about broader, big-picture topics while also honing in on the game, much like fans do when watching with their family and friends.”

The MegaCast will originate from a remote location. The Mannings will be joined by a host to be determined and will include other guests. While the game will always be visible, the conversation will be informal and is geared to be as if viewers are watching a game at home with friends.

“This partnership with ESPN and The Walt Disney Company reflects an ongoing, shared commitment to offering fans fun, innovative content,” Peyton Manning said in a statement. “ESPN+ has been a terrific partner for Omaha Productions as we built out The Places franchise and we’re excited to co-create a new MegaCast format that will have something for everyone.”

Peyton Manning already has a working history with ESPN. His “Peyton's Places” series on ESPN+ was meant to be a one-off to celebrate the NFL's 100th season, but is in its third season. The franchise has expanded to include “Places” series involving Abby Wambach (soccer), Eli Manning (college football), David Ortiz (Major League Baseball), Ronda Rousey (combat sports) and Vince Carter (NBA). Wambach's series premiered this month.

Extra points

... Coming off an ACL injury that cost him most of last season, Saquon Barkley either doesn’t know or isn’t saying how much he will be able to do when the New York Giants report to training camp next week.

Speaking during a break at a youth football camp Monday, Barkley said he is continuing to rehabilitate his right knee and he is taking things day by day. The 24-year-old running back added he has not spoken with coach Joe Judge about how the team plans for him in training camp.

Players report to camp in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 27. Practice starts the next day.

The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year smiled when asked if he knew more than he was saying.

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is helped off the field after being injured against the Chicago Bears during the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago.

“I guess that’s the theme of the summer, when would I be back?," Barkley said "I don’t have an answer, to be honest. I’m not trying to lead up to it, but I don’t have an answer. It’s a fun process (rehab), but it’s a tough process at the same time. So I’m listening to my body, the trainers, the coaches and taking it day by day.”

Barkley, hurt against the Bears in the second game of the season, interacted with the young players at the ProCamps event, throwing and catching passes, and even doing a little running.

A 1,000-yard rusher in each of his first two seasons, Barkley said his knee feels pretty good. He seemed to move well on the field, adding he liked being a “kid at heart” with the youngsters and got a boost of energy being with them.

Most professional teams don't let athletes coming off major injuries do much at the start of camp. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft has not played in a game since Sept. 20 and he did not take part in the Giants' voluntary offseason training activities or the mandatory minicamp last month.

For his own safety, Barkley does not want to get back on the field until he can go 100%, which he insists is the way he plays football.

Barkley admits his rehab may never end. It's a process in which one continually builds the body to avoid injuries.

“... But the sport that I play, things happen,” the former Penn State star said. “So you just try to eliminate all those things that you can, but just go out there with a smile on my face and just tell yourself you are playing the sport that you love. And if anything does happen, it happens. That’s my mindset.”

... Raiders team president Marc Badain has resigned just before the start of training camp after helping orchestrate the team's move to Las Vegas.

Owner Mark Davis announced Monday that Badain is leaving the organization and that executive vice president and general counsel Dan Ventrelle will take over on an interim basis.

Badain went from being a ball boy for the team to a 30-year career with the organization. He eventually became the chief financial officer for the team and was an assistant to former CEO Amy Trask.

He took over as interim president in 2013 when Trask resigned and got the full-time job in 2015. He helped put together the stadium deal in Las Vegas that led to the team's move from Oakland last year into sparkling Allegiant Stadium.

Badain leaves before the stadium hosts a game with fans with the team playing before empty seats during the pandemic last year.