Tillman “A Football Life” debuts Oct. 28

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2016 – 7:57 pm

NFL Films is rolling out a new round of its excellent series “A Football Life.” Last season it was the Bruce Arians story. Kurt Warner got one before that. Now, it will be the Pat Tillman episode. It will debut Oct. 28 on the NFL Network at 6 p.m. Arizona time (9 p.m. ET). Yes, I’m sure it’ll be on the web at some point. No, they didn’t way when.

NFL Films is also doing a new series called “The Timeline,” which chronicles moments that have helped shape the NFL in one way or another. The debut episode on Sept. 9 will be”9/11,” about how the NFL dealt with the crisis of Sept. 11, 2001. I remember it well, since I was in my second season covering the Cardinals. With an odd number of teams at the time, there was a bye every week, and the Cardinals — not a good team at the time — actually had their bye date to open the 2001 season. So the league started play Sept. 9 while the Cards waited for their “opener,” scheduled for Sept. 16 in Washington against the Redskins.

That Tuesday, tragedy happened. The games the following weekend were canceled, although it took a little time to make that call. And, to bring this post full circle, while I watched the aftermath of the Towers falling on TV while sitting in the media room at the Cardinals’ complex, Pat Tillman sat next to me — a story I have written about many times. It’s a story I told during an NFL Films interview for the Tillman “A Football Life.” We’ll see if it’s included.



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Documenting a season with the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 21, 2016 – 2:15 pm

It isn’t unusual for an NFL Films crew to show up in Tempe a couple of times a year, gathering practice footage or working on a piece. But last year, the crew didn’t leave. Some of the faces changed, sure — when you are embedding with an NFL team, that’s a bigger job than for just one group of three or four. But someone was around all the time, in the offseason, at training camp, through the regular season and playoffs (and a week in West Virginia). Sometimes they were even on the Cardinals’ charter flight.

And now, the reason is out there: “All or Nothing,” an eight-episode series on Amazon, is coming.

(There is no set date of when the release will be. That’s still TBD.)

It’s a massive logistical undertaking. It’s unusual for a pro team, for sure, and certainly for an NFL team, but team president Michael Bidwill liked the idea and pushed for it from the top. He couldn’t have picked a much more intriguing season for which to do it. A franchise record for wins, Tyrann Mathieu’s big season and subsequent knee injury, Carson Palmer’s MVP push, Larry Fitzgerald’s renaissance, Dwight Freeney’s midseason arrival, five primetime games. I’ll be interested to see how they manage to break down eight episodes. Clearly there’s enough to do even more.

People talk about distractions, but since nothing will air until after the fact, last season isn’t impacted by the series (unlike, say, “Hard Knocks.”) Also, once the crew was in place, it never seemed that overbearing. Cameras were installed in offices and meeting rooms, used remotely from a “control room” set up in the facility so no one would be bothered.

Even as someone who is pretty embedded myself, I’m looking forward to see this inside view — views I don’t get to see either.


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As Sabol passes, the importance of NFL Films

Posted by Darren Urban on September 18, 2012 – 2:43 pm

Long before ESPN and any of the many highlight shows made the NFL a constant in living rooms, there was NFL Films. That’s the first thing that popped into my head today when the news came down that Steve Sabol — the son of the father-son duo that brought NFL Films to existence and prominence — passed away.

NFL Films is still around and doing fantastic work with the league providing those goosebump-raising packages with the cool movie score music and the slow-motion shots. But it’s one of many outlets anymore, and for many younger fans, it’s just part of the televised NFL crowd. I’m old enough to pre-date the internet, to pre-date ESPN, to remember the time when the NFL was growing to be king and NFL Films helped turn a game into something so much more. A run-of-the-mill Sunday matchup between two non-playoff teams could be made to look like a battle for the ages with the right shots, the right music. NFL Films was a mythmaker, much to my and many others’ delight.

Think of all the iconic shots that are iconic because of how NFL Films caught them on tape. Raiders defensive back Willie Brown running back an interception in the Super Bowl. Niners receiver Dwight Clark’s catch against the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC title game. The moves of Sweetness or the acrobatics of Steelers receiver Lynn Swann, my first favorite player thanks to my mom buying me his jersey at a garage sale when I was 9. When you are young watching NFL Films, how are the players not larger than life?

Ed Sabol, who started NFL Films, made the Hall of Fame. His son, such a huge part of the NFL explosion, may get there too. A statement from Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill:

“Steve Sabol’s incredible vision, talent and creative energy shaped the way millions of us enjoy and experience the National Football League.  His loss is a blow to all of us who love football but the passion he brought to the sport lives on in every fan who has been influenced by his amazing work.  The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the Cardinals are with the Sabol family as well as our friends and colleagues at NFL Films.”

From the last few years, here are some NFL Films moments of the Cards:

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