Behind The Scenes

Fast Break: Rachel Nichols at SB XLVI

Rachel Nichols with New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich.

INDIANAPOLIS — In her role covering the New York Giants, reporter Rachel Nichols has been an invaluable asset to fans who turn to ESPN for news and information about Super Bowl XLVI.

Based at ESPN’s New York City bureau, Nichols has been mostly assigned to New York’s NFL teams and in the postseason, she has focused on the Giants.

“Because we serve a primarily sports-savvy audience, our reporters must be curious enough and adept at uncovering good stories,” said ESPN NFL senior coordinating producer Seth Markman.

“Rachel and Ed [Werder, covering the New England Patriots] are two of the best at digging for and telling multiple stories to keep our viewers informed.”

Nichols, a former South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Washington Post reporter, reports regularly on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, NFL and NBA studio programming and other shows.

She is one of five lead correspondents on E:60, ESPN’s award-winning and critically acclaimed newsmagazine. This season, she was added to the regular rotation of Monday Night Football sideline reporters.

ESPN Front Row caught up with Nichols Thursday, and she shared some insight on her role covering the Giants at Super Bowl XLVI.

Her thoughts:

On a typical day (Wednesday) at Super Bowl XLVI Week
The days get pretty busy here because we’re trying to provide information for a lot of different arms of ESPN — plus mix in some fun stuff with some more long-range storytelling as well.

I’ll give you my day on Wednesday: I started at the Giants media availability, where I was trying to gather information for the day’s reports on ESPN, as well as some information that we’ll use over the weekend, when the teams have no more official media access. It got a little hectic at the end of the hour, because Osi Umenyiora did not show up for his scheduled session. It’s my job to find out why: Was he sick? Hurt? Did he just oversleep or decide not to come?

In asking around about what might be wrong with Osi, one of the Giants’ coaches ended up telling me a different player on the team, Jimmy Kennedy, had, in fact, been sick, so I scrambled to report that. The day before, the Patriots had been struck by a flu bug, with several players falling ill, so any sickness anywhere was being taken pretty seriously. We did a live shot with the 12-3 p.m. SportsCenter, and then taped a segment that could run through the rest of the early afternoon.

By 4 p.m. ET, I was on the NFL Live set, first to give a report on the Giants defensive gameplan against Tom Brady, then to do a second segment talking zip line. I had an hour-long break before the next live shot, so I went up into the office and recorded some voice tracks for a feature piece on Justin Tuck that will run on Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a pretty touching story about how Tuck became close with a young fan and his family — that kind of thing takes you out of the X-and-O mindset for a little.

But as soon as that was done, I had to switch gears again to talk more football. I did a live-shot for NFL 32, talking about the Giants’ afternoon practice. Then, I did another but similar live-shot for the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter.

Finally, around 7:30 p.m., we put together two reports for the 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET editions of SportsCenter.

Once they were taped, we were wrapped for the day, although if any news on the Giants broke through the evening, I was on-call for that, too.

On the benefit of covering a more familiar team in Super Bowl XLVI:
It always helps to have gone through a lot of a season with a particular team. I don’t necessarily have to look up what happened in say, Week 13. I can remember it because I was there. Or if a particular player gets injured, and I may remember what he told me about, say, injuring that same shoulder in training camp. That means I can give some depth to an injury report we do before we even have access to talk to the player.

On comparing Super Bowl Week role focused on one team versus a regular NFL weekend:
It’s definitely different. The nice part is getting to be able to see stories evolve, instead of just dropping in for a quick look. You also get the chance to talk to a more wide range of people when you’re with a team for a longer period of time, and that’s great, since the best stories sometimes come from the unknown players.

On stories she’s working on for the weekend including Sunday NFL Countdown:
I’m working on the Justin Tuck story I mentioned earlier, that’s a feature that will run on Sunday’s SportsCenter shows. I’m also working on a feature for Sunday NFL Countdown: Super Bowl XLVI edition about Eli Manning’s elusiveness in the pocket: how he seems able to extend plays even when a defense is closing in on him, and pull off some pretty spectacular passes. His most famous [pass] being, of course, the pass to David Tyree in the Giants’ Super Bowl win four years ago.

On where she’ll report from on Super Bowl Sunday:
On Sunday, I’ll be reporting from the Giants team hotel most of the day, as the team prepares to leave for the stadium, then I’ll be at the stadium for the game and, of course, the reports afterward.

On the Giants’ mood going into the game
This is a loose team. Jst a few hours before the plane took off for Indianapolis, Eli Manning was playing practical jokes on his receivers. That probably comes from having a core of 19 guys who have played in a Super Bowl before; they know what to expect. That being said, this is a [coach] Tom Coughlin team, so they are extremely well-prepared, and I have no doubts they will be serious when it matters on game day.

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