NFL Total Access is NFL Network's version of SportsCenter. And on the opening day of free agency, which is one of the most important and news-filled days on the annual NFL calendar, Total Access opened not with DeMarcus Ware's release or the latest on Darrelle Revis, but instead with a mini highlight/stats pack featuring, um, Nate Burleson.

Why Burleson, who has been long-forgotten by many as a 32-year-old free agent on an open market that is heavy on wide receivers? 

Well, that's because the former Viking, Seahawk and Lion was on the set, stepping in as a guest analyst on the league-owned network's flagship program.

Over on ESPN all day — and for much of the offseason thus far — free-agent safety Ryan Clark was performing a similar role. 

In both cases, players closer to the end than the beginning of their respective careers were establishing themselves for potential post-NFL jobs in media, which is understandable. But it is a little strange seeing current players with vested interest acting as unbiased critics on national television. 

I don't necessarily have a problem with it, but NFL Network in particular made a strange editorial decision by essentially giving Burleson a chance to plug himself at the very beginning of what will certainly be one of its most-viewed studio broadcasts of the year. 

Adding current players to these broadcasts has some value, mainly because they can speak from contemporary experience. I appreciate that but if the trade-off is having news-oriented broadcasts altered in order to support those players' football fate, a line has arguably been crossed. 

When you combine that touchy aspect with the fact that said players also may hold back in order to avoid alienating potential suitors has me thinking the whole thing may not be such a great idea if the networks are using their airtime as a free agent advertisement. 

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.

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