From 2003-13, Nate Burleson enjoyed a productive 11-year career as an NFL wide receiver for three franchises. Since then, he’s been making his presence felt on camera.
Burleson is currently a major component of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football and NFL Today on CBS. He also works as a correspondent for the entertainment show Extra.
Earlier in this year’s NFL playoffs, Burleson was the game analyst for Nickelodeon’s simulcast of the NFC Wild Card Game between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. Now, he’s teaming up with Crown Royal to promote staying hydrated and drinking responsibly while enjoying the Super Bowl.
“For a brand as big as Crown Royal and the things that they do, as we like to call it on and off the field but with them, it’s on and off the shelf, I feel honored to be part of it,” Burleson said during an interview with The Spun this week.
We chatted with Burleson about the upcoming Super Bowl matchup (which he predicted in the preseason), his former quarterback Matthew Stafford being traded, the recent Chad Wheeler situation and much more.
Let’s take a look at what the rising on-air star had to say…
The Spun: Usually, you don’t see the NFL hot stove take up such a big part of Super Bowl prep, but this year has been different. Most notably, there was the Matthew Stafford trade. As someone who played with Matt in Detroit, what do you think the Rams are getting and how did you react to that trade when you saw it go down?
Nate Burleson: It was a little shocking. When I first heard about it, I said ‘There’s VHS tapes still for rent.’ What do I mean by that? The Blockbuster deal is still alive. How often in the NFL do we get Blockbuster deals? We hear it all the time in the NBA and we’re used to it in other sports but in football we don’t get it.
It was a good move for both teams. Everybody involved wins. The Rams get a quarterback that they believe in, because I feel like at some point, that relationship between Sean McVay, Jared Goff and the organization started to fall apart. On the flip side, the Detroit Lions allowed Matt Stafford to leave, which I know Matt Stafford can respect at this point. There will be no ill feelings. He’ll always go back and show love to the organization that drafted him. But then they also get the draft picks. I’ve always said draft picks are like gold, and if you use them correctly, they can get you very rich.
The Spun: It’s funny you mention the NBA. You see all the time in the NBA some things that have become the norm in the league. One is teams attaching draft picks so another team will take a big contract off their hands, which the Rams did with unloading Goff’s contract. Also, this is the player empowerment era in the NBA. In the NFL, people are now talking about Deshaun Watson in Houston looking for a fresh start. Do you think this is something that will become more the norm in the NFL or is just an aberration?
NB: I believe it’s going to become more of the norm. I used to be that guy, old-school way of thinking ‘They draft you, they pay you, you gotta deal with it, the good times and bad times.’ But then you start thinking about guys who wanted out and then when they got out, their situation was better. You look at Jamal Adams. He’s with the Jets, he’s on Twitter unfollowing the team and being very vocal about being traded. He lands with the Seahawks and he breaks the record for the most sacks in a season by a defensive back, he makes the playoffs for the first time in his career. Life is good for Jamal Adams.
A couple of years ago, it was Minkah Fitzpatrick. He’s in Miami and he’s complaining and you hear his mom gets involved and people are online tweeting. The old-school traditionalists are like, ‘Man shut up young fella, you take the money and you deal with it. This is ridiculous.’ But then he goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’re in the playoffs. Not only that, this dude’s an All-Pro. He’s not a pretty good player, he’s not playing okay. This dude went from Miami, which at this time they were one of the worst teams, to being an All-Pro safety.
So, I can say Deshaun Watson needs to deal with it because he has the big contract and this is what they bring you there for. But, it’s almost like if there is a better situation and you’re bold enough to ask for it and it works out, years from now, are we really going to get mad about Jamal Adams fighting his way out of New York? Or Minkah fighting his way out of Miami? Or, let’s just say Deshaun gets traded to the Chicago Bears or New York Jets and takes them to the Super Bowl. Are we going to be talking about those Houston Texans days or are we going to be praising Deshaun Watson in the place that he’s in?
The Spun: You had an opportunity to do something pretty cool and broadcast that Saints-Bears Wild Card game for Nickelodeon. How did that opportunity come about and what was it like to do a broadcast like that?
NB: It was fun. To prepare for that game, I didn’t do what I typically do. I usually lock myself in a room, I’m watching film, I’ve got all kinds of screens in different places like Tom Cruise in the Minority Report. I do that so I can digest as much information so I can regurgitate it in real time. That’s a traditional broadcast.
For this, I didn’t need to do that. I’m not going to bore an eight-year-old with the actual breakdown of a Post-Corner route. So I said, I’m going to do this in the most Nick way I can. I spent the two nights before the game in a hotel in New Orleans watching re-runs of my favorite Nickelodeon shows. I’m talking Double Dare, Rocko’s Modern Life, Rugrats, All That, Kenan & Kel all the way up until the new stuff that’s on there. That’s how I took my notes. I was just writing references and puns and phrases from all these shows. Because I knew I’d be speaking to generations of Nickelodeon kids.
Nate Burleson saying moving down the field is like homework and the red zone is the test is honestly the best football explanation I've ever heard.
— Chris Vannini 😷 (@ChrisVannini) January 10, 2021
The Spun: Looking at the Super Bowl, you were one of the guys who said early on it would be Bucs-Chiefs, even before the season started. What made you go with that prediction from the start and how do you see this game playing out on Sunday?
NB: I went with the Chiefs because they’re the best team in football, as far as offense, and even the defense. They’re so explosive on both sides of the ball and I have faith in Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy with the playcalling.
I went with the Buccaneers because I feel like Tom Brady has this written. It’s almost like a fairy tale ending. It was a little bit of a big swing when it came to the Buccaneers, but I have the Chiefs winning this as of now. But I’ve been waffling back and forth on it all week.
The Spun: You played Division I football and played 11 years in the NFL. Now, you have a son who is starting to get attention and go through the recruiting process. What has the experience of seeing him go through that been like for you?
NB: It’s wild. I forgot how much joy I felt as a teenager when I got my first offer. So for coaches to reach out and offer my son as a sophomore, it really is a good feeling. It’s a great dad moment. And it’s a great motivator for my son. He gets an offer and he doesn’t lean back further in his gaming chair and get back to playing Call of Duty. He perks up and is like ‘Okay, I need to go workout.’ Because I’ve kind of drilled into his head that the more you sit down, the more the next man catches up.
The Spun: On a little more of a serious note, you recently spoke up on NFL Network about the Chad Wheeler situation. It seemed like it was very honest, very off-the-cuff. Was that something you had planned and talked about with your colleagues beforehand or was it something more in the moment?
NB: No, I didn’t speak to them about it beforehand. We do these news hits, and I just kind of assumed we were gonna touch on it. I knew what happened. I’m a Seattle guy, and it happened in Seattle, so I had some details that maybe everybody wasn’t privy to. I just thought, listen, we’re a show that touches on everything and we’ve touched on tough issues before. I didn’t want to let this one pass by. Because the good things and bad things that happen in the NFL, they just parallel society. So if it happens in the NFL, I want to use that opportunity to highlight something…Whenever there’s an issue in the league, I want to address it on a grand scale. This way, we can all get better.
The Spun: Last question here: as somebody who got involved with broadcasting right after their playing days were over, are there any people that you see as kind of up-and-coming media stars? Any former players who have a bright future in that medium?
NB: You know what’s wild? There used to be a misconception that athletes are just dumb jocks. This dates all the way back to the high school area about the athletes in your local town or city. But it’s not like that anymore. I’m so impressed by every single player that comes on my show that I always end up telling them during the commercial break, ‘Hey, go make as much money as you can, play football for as long as you can, build your brand as big as you can, but when you’re done, come take my seat.’ This is about passing it forward. This game is going to be in good hands with the next generation of TV stars. Everybody from Larry Fitzgerald to Drew Brees, even Philip Rivers who I hear is considering getting into TV. We have some guys that are going to retire over the next couple of years that are going to make TV watching and football watching really cool.