NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, an American sportswriter and television analyst, has been reporting for the NFL Network since 2009. He previously served as a beat reporter at the Boston Herald for the New England Patriots but now bases his operation out of New York. Rapoport also covered the University of Alabama for the Birmingham News and Mississippi State University for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger prior to his transition to television analytics.
Rapoport recently spoke to Oklahoma Christian University students Nov. 26 in the Sports Law class held at 9:30 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, answering questions regarding his craft.
Q: What is it like working for a league-owned media platform versus ESPN or FOX? Do you have any form of restraints and how does that work for you?
“It’s been interesting. I do my job like I would do for any outlet. If there is a sensitive news story, I check and double check and give people a heads up about what I am reporting, like when there are people who need to be criticized, and it’s happened in the league office from the handling of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Deflate Gate. There has been a lot of different crimes to criticize and I have reported like I always have. I report on the different contracts or injuries or hiring’s or firings the same. I don’t get treated any differently from the league office.”
Q: How has your contact base changed from when you first started to now as an established writer? How have you cultivated new relationships and grown your contact base?
“It’s unbelievable. I would say I started this essentially from scratch. I covered one team, the Patriots. I literally had contacts from one team and a couple agents. So, I got beat all the time. I think probably the hardest thing was when you get beat on a story and you’re like, ‘Alright, what do I do, who do I call, how can I confirm this?’ I would say now I am at the point where I have a lot of numbers in my phone. I could probably call 95 percent of the people in the NFL, as far as coaches, General Managers, agents, personnel people, scouting—I could call almost anyone and feel confident that I would get a response even if they say, ‘Look, I can’t help you.’”
Q: With you being inside the NFL, what are a few new changes for the upcoming CBA that you believe will happen?
“It is going to be really interesting. The economic model is actually really good. Everybody is getting rich. The salary cap is expanded 7-9 percent every year. They changed the model before the last CBA, and my guess is that probably remains the same. As far as issues, I would expect the franchise tag to be an issue again. I would say they will probably take a hard look at drug testing, marijuana testing, the criminalization of marijuana, how much they want to pull back on that considering it has been legalized in so many different states. They might take a look and finally come up with something for the [National] Anthem, but I don’t know. It is interesting because everyone talks about it like it will be hard battle, and maybe it will, but there is not a ton wrong with the current system.”
Q: How often do teams or agents falsify information in order to try to get an inaccurate story circulating in the media?
“I will give you an example from [Nov, 26]. I knew Andy Dalton was going to miss time. I didn’t know he was going to injury reserve, but I knew he would miss at least one, probably two, games and that Jeff Driskel was going to start. So, I had everything ready. I had my tweet ready, I just needed someone to say, ‘Yeah, that sounds right,’ and everyone I talked to said, ‘We are still working through it,’ ‘Not 100 percent sure,’ ‘Just need a little time.’ I held back on it, and it turned out that they kept it quiet because they wanted to claim Tom Savage off waivers, so everyone involved was under instruction, ‘Don’t say anything publicly until we announce.’ So, did they lie to me? Kind of. I understand why they did it. It’s kind of annoying but in the end, that is sort of life.”
Q: The NFL is in an interesting state of fastbreak-styled football. Do you think the league will adapt to this and revert to a more pro-styled game?
“I would expect it to settle back in. There are a lot of people on the Competitions Committee that are sort of traditionalists. They have done a good job of being open minded, but they like ‘real football,’ for a lack of a better term. You can control this stuff. You can focus on defensive holding, illegal contact and pass interference and if you let them play a little bit, you are not going to get the 65-62 games. If you call fewer penalties, you will get lower scoring games. I would expect sort of a market correction, kind of like when Chip Kelly first came into the league. I think defensive coordinators are going to figure it out.”
Q: What advice would you give individuals wanting to break into this business in some form or fashion?
“I would say the main thing is you have to like what you do more than sports. I am a reporter. I like reporting. I like the act of reporting, talking to sources, figuring out a story, reporting it, dunking on everyone, going on TV to talk about it. I like it a lot more than I like football. If you want to be in sports because you like sports, you should be in something else, because what happens is the romanticism of sports is taken away really quickly. You meet athletes and you realize they are just like regular people. They aren’t going to be your friends. It’s not that cool. You go to enough games and you realize it’s just the office. If you are in it because you like sports, you should do something else.”