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NFL Beat Week 6: Dan Graziano

Front Row continues a weekly series with ESPN NFL reporters who take you inside their upcoming game assignments. Dan Graziano is covering Broncos-Patriots

National NFL Insider Dan Graziano makes sure he observes COVID-19 protocols. (Dan Graziano/ESPN)
National NFL Insider Dan Graziano is covering his 10th football season at ESPN and will be live from Foxborough, Mass., this weekend to cover the Denver Broncos-New England Patriots contest – a game originally scheduled for Week 5.

In addition to highlighting key storylines for Sunday, Graziano shared some insights on his own fandom and NFL Sunday routine with Front Row.

If you were able to travel to the game with any player or coach, who would it be and why?
From this game, I am going to say [New England Patriots quarterback] Cam Newton, and the reason is that I don’t know him at all. I’ve found him an absolutely fascinating player since he was at Auburn, and I’ve never had a one-on-one interview with him and frankly don’t know a lot of people who have. We don’t root for the success of specific teams or players in this business, but there are players of whom I consider myself a fan because I just get so much enjoyment from watching them play. Cam has always been one of those guys for me. So I’ll ride to the game with Cam and fan out a little bit.

WEEK 6 NFL REPORTER ASSIGNMENTS

On Sunday before the games, Graziano and ESPN’s team of NFL reporters will supply information and analysis on Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m. ET, ESPN) and Fantasy Football Now (10 a.m. ET, ESPN2).
Jeff Darlington: Green Bay at Tampa Bay
Dan Graziano: Denver at New England
Kimberley A. Martin: Chicago at Carolina
Sal Paolantonio: Baltimore at Philadelphia
Dianna Russini: Cleveland at Pittsburgh

What is the first thing you’ll do when you get to the stadium?
I’ll go find the spot where our producer and our camera are set up and knock out the first taped hit of the day for SportsCenter. Having already done a game in Foxborough this year, I feel like I’m up on the entry protocols and the location we’ll be using on the concourse overlooking the field. I have to say, of the many things I miss this year, one of the biggest is that feeling of walking through the tunnels and onto the field early in the morning while the stadium is just waking up and everybody’s bustling around to get everything ready for the day.

What are the essential items you have on hand?

  • First and foremost, my phone. Sunday mornings are very buzzy times in terms of keeping up on the news and getting texts from sources ahead of the games with last-minute injury info, etc.
  • My earpiece, which is always in my bag so I can use it at stadiums, or in studio in Bristol or New York or doing a live hit from the camera in my basement.
  • I carry a little makeup compact with powder and a mirror so I can cover up the shiny spots on my forehead. Not sure how essential it is, but it still makes my kids laugh.

What are the top three storylines you’ll be reporting?

  • What it’s been like for the Patriots and Broncos not playing for so long and having this game rescheduled a couple of times (Broncos will not have played in 17 days!)?
  • The Patriots’ QB situation. We presume Cam Newton will be back, assuming he’s finished with the return-to-play protocols required following a positive test. The game will be nine days after his positive test. The Patriots haven’t let on, but I know the Broncos believe they’ll be facing Cam.
  • Other health/injury situations such as Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore, who also tested positive, and Broncos QB Drew Lock, who missed their last game Oct. 1 against the Jets with an injury but was back at practice this week.
Graziano: “I have to say, of the many things I miss this year, one of the biggest is that feeling of walking through the tunnels and onto the field early in the morning while the stadium is just waking up and everybody’s bustling around to get everything ready for the day. ” (Dan Graziano/ESPN)

What should fantasy football players consider?

  • As a fantasy football player, I think one of the most interesting stories here is the Patriots’ running game. [Running back] Sony Michel is on IR, and [his replacement] Damien Harris, who missed the first three games of the year due to injury, had 100 yards last Monday in his 2020 season debut. Does he take on a larger role, or is it the usual mishmash of Patriots backs with Harris and James White and Rex Burkhead stealing work from each other (and Cam running it in at the goal line)?
  • On the Denver side, will [running back] Melvin Gordon play? He missed practice Wednesday after being charged with DUI on Tuesday night. Could be facing a suspension. Denver has Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman behind him.

What is your go-to stadium snack?
League-wide, I say my favorite press box treat is the halftime ice cream sundae bar in Minnesota. Like, when I get assigned a game there, literally the first thing that pops into my head is the halftime ice cream. But I bring a significantly pro-ice cream bias to any discussion about snacks.

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