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Atlanta Falcons and Jay Glazer


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May 27, 2010

Fox’s Glazer Straddles Jobs as N.F.L. Reporter and Trainer

<h6 class="byline">By RICHARD SANDOMIR</h6> To football fans, Jay Glazer is the shaved-headed, goateed N.F.L. reporter for Fox Sports.

To some of the league’s players, he is their mixed martial arts trainer.

Earlier this month, Glazer’s worlds intersected vividly when one of his clients, Brian Cushing, a Houston Texans linebacker, tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for four games.

Glazer posted a Twitter message about his pique at Cushing for not telling him about the test in September, then posted an article about the suspension on FoxSports.com.

“I said, ‘You have to talk to me,’ ” he said, recalling his conversation with Cushing in an interview. “ ‘I’m still a journalist and I have to do a story.’ He apologized for putting me in a bad spot.”

He said his business partner Randy Couture, one of the stars in mixed martial arts, was even more furious at Cushing, who was voted the N.F.L. defensive rookie of the year before his suspension, and retained the distinction in a second vote afterward. Couture’s nickname, the Natural, is said to underscore his antipathy to steroids and other banned drugs.

Glazer said, “I have a partner to deal with and we’re trying to get a supplement line certified by the N.F.L.”

Glazer’s arrangement is unusual, at best, and raises questions about how he balances his competing interests. While some N.F.L. reporters and sportscasters cover the sport for more than one news media outlet, Glazer reports on some of the same players and teams who pay him for his training expertise.

And Fox, which is pleased with his reporting and trusts him to stay objective, asked him to develop and co-host a weekly series on FoxSports.com that features his and Couture’s business, MMAthletics.

“They see how popular and successful M.M.A. is,” Glazer said. “It was a no-brainer for them.”

The first of three episodes drew 226,000 unique visitors, the most of any premiere in a weekday online programming block called “Lunch With Benefits” that made its debut in September.

The show is an off-season replacement for “The After Party,” with Glazer interviewing N.F.L. players via Skype in his freewheeling, friendly, inside-the-locker-room style.

Glazer’s football content — news and video — accounted for 15.8 million visitors on FoxSports.com last season. Ed Goren, the president of Fox Sports, said he was not concerned about potential conflicts of interest arising from Glazer’s overlapping careers.

“Jay knows what his primary business is, and it’s the business of journalism,” Goren said. “If there’s an issue, he’s going to report it, whether it’s about a friend or someone he doesn’t know.”

Goren described Glazer’s M.M.A. business as a “part-time job” that does not impede his reporting.

Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the N.F.L., said, “Jay is not employed by the N.F.L. and Fox is comfortable with the arrangement.”

But Bob Steele, an ethics expert at the Poynter Institute, said Glazer’s entangled roles created “competing loyalties.” He added: “You can only scrutinize what he reports. But you can’t scrutinize what he does not report, so we don’t know what he didn’t ask an athlete. He might be making legitimate journalistic choices, but you can’t tell because you can’t see beneath the surface.”

Glazer said that the evidence of his objectivity rested in his criticism of Cushing and his willingness to be tough on any player, whether he is a friend, a client or someone he does not know. He conceded that there was no guidebook for someone in his position, but he said he believed that his warnings to clients protected him against ethical conflicts.

“I tell them: If you mess up, I’ll be harder on you than anyone else,” he said. “Just because I work with you doesn’t give you a free pass.” He added, “They have to separate the N.F.L. insider from the M.M.A. cross-trainer.”

Glazer is an intense, boisterous personality with a short wrestler’s body, who left an off-screen reporter’s role for “The NFL Today” on CBS to join “Fox NFL Sunday” in 2004. A colleague at Fox, Michael Strahan, the former Giants player, is a close friend. Strahan was the best man at Glazer’s wedding in 2006. (The marriage ended quickly.) And Glazer wrote Strahan’s autobiography.

“Most people love him or hate him,” Strahan said. “If you get past the onslaught of Jay, you love him. It’s a childlike quality. He says anything. He just doesn’t care.”

Glazer’s zeal for reporting and befriending players has generated exclusive reports on the New England Patriots’ videotaping scandal, which was called Spygate, and a variety of others about Brett Favre.

“I’m not trying to be a regular N.F.L. insider,” he said. “I’m trying to build a brand.”

As his star has risen at Fox, so has his interest in mixed martial arts. Glazer wants to prove that the sport, once maligned as human cockfighting, has matured and that it can be adapted to train athletes in many sports. He and Couture have developed position-specific exercises to improve players’ leverage, endurance and flexibility.

Current and former clients include the Atlanta Falcons, the St. Louis Rams, Chris Long, Ryan Grant, Patrick Willis, Keith Rivers, Matt Leinart and Jared Allen. Glazer hopes to bring in more football players and athletes from other sports. “We want to revolutionize athletic training,” he said.

Glazer’s strong network of player relationships can serve as a promotional platform for his M.M.A. business. And bonding with players through intense training can generate news articles for Fox.

“My relationships were terrific already, and this only helps, so when Patrick Willis signed his new contract, I had the story,” he said of the 49ers linebacker. “I’d like to think I would have gotten the story otherwise.”

Grant, the Green Bay running back, trained with Glazer in kickboxing and muay Thai last month to help open his hips and improve his balance and leg drive. “And I’m going back after minicamp,” Grant said. He added: “Jay builds a connection with players to where guys trust him. He hasn’t done anything to take that trust away.”

Glazer’s two careers led him to meet with the Falcons at the N.F.L. combine in February.

“Jay and Randy were setting up meetings with different teams,” Falcons Coach Mike Smith said. He said that he and Jeff Fish, his director of athletic performance, listened to their M.M.A. training pitch and hired them to train 16 players in wrestling, boxing and muay Thai during off-season conditioning from late March to early May.

“Some of our guys were already doing it on their own, so we felt why not bring in experts from the M.M.A.,” Smith said. “It’s very intense, a different kind of training than our guys were used to because of the different movements and styles, and it’s heavy on the conditioning side. Jay really has the passion.”

He called Glazer’s role as a reporter “a nonissue for me; he and Randy are offering us a service.”

So we're the only team that is really taking advantage of this type of extra curricular training. I think it's going to have a huge effect on our play this year. Jared Allen averaged 9 sacks before he started this training and since then has averaged just under 15 in 3 seasons. This is what 5-0 (Curtis Lofton) had to say about the training....

"There’s a lot of carryover to what we do on the field. We do some Muay Thai [for core-muscle and hip development], wrestling, working on our hands and getting guys off you. We work on body leverage, too, which is important. Whoever is the lowest man controls the other man. ... It’s really intense. This is our second workout for the day. Some of this is just pushing it to do whatever else you’ve got to do to get better."

I'm really excited about this.

The Falcons want their athletes to pick up more than just the physical skills that MMA will bring. They also want their football players to pick up the mental mindset of successful fighters.

“When you’re in that cage and you break someone’s will, you can actually hear it,” said the 47-year-old Couture ... “It sounds like a twig breaking. We’re trying to get our guys to have that same mentality when they go into a game — impose their will and try to break the will of the players they’re facing.”

I know for many of you this is old news as it is to me but just wanted to revisit the topic.

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