CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Redskins Preseason Coverage Spotlights “Fight to 53”

It’s only 10 minutes into the opening half and the star quarterback already has his pads off and is chatting into a coach’s headset. A play or two later, the stud running back and the flashy wide receiver join him on the sideline, going over plays and joking with teammates. It’s the story with pretty much every NFL preseason game.

That brings about the biggest challenge for any outfit broadcasting live preseason football games: keeping the viewer engaged when they have no idea who’s on the field.

This month, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic will produce three live Redskins preseason games — beginning tonight as the ‘Skins host the defending AFC Champion Steelers at 7:30 pm ET — and the focus of these broadcasts will be aimed at, what the production team is calling, “The Fight to 53.”

“Over the next three to four weeks we’ll try to tell those stories in our games,” says Bill Bell, director and executive producer at Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. “We really try to focus in on telling our viewer who some of these young men are that they might not know about because, let’s be honest, in a preseason game quite often a lot of your starters or star players are not going to get a lot of snaps. So that opens up the gate, in a lot of ways, to let the viewer know more about these other men trying to make the team.”

For Friday’s HD telecast, CSN will deploy 14 cameras, 12 of which will be operated by members of its staff. Two additional cameras — likely positioned at the high and low end zones — will be shared with the Steelers’ KDKA broadcast team.

While working NFL games is not something that CSN, or any regional sports network for that matter, gets to do during the regular season, Bell feels confident that his team is up to the task.

“With us doing over 230 live events each year between Capitals hockey, Wizards basketball, and college football and basketball, this is really right up our alley,” adds Bell, who regularly directs live Capitals games and Baltimore Ravens pre and postgame shows for the network. “The NFL is a big monster, everybody loves it and we are no different. So we give it a little extra attention. I don’t want to say its just another live event that we do, because its not, it’s the NFL. With the lockout being resolved, we’re just like everyone else, we’re itchin’ and ready to go.”

CSN also has the luxury of broadcasting out of its own HD production truck, which they have been using to broadcast Capitals and Wizards games from the Verizon Center for nearly a decade. Combine that with the fact that CSN no longer carries Baltimore Orioles games — MASN acquired the rights in 2010 after a messy lawsuit between the two networks in 2005 — Bell and his team were in prime position when the NFL lockout officially ended.

“Our truck isn’t tied up in the summer time,” says Bell, “so it’s sort of sitting there waiting for events.” He added that the truck would travel to Indianapolis for the Redskins second preseason game against the Colts on Aug. 19.

The Redskins preseason will conclude with a meeting with the local-rival Ravens on Aug. 25 on ESPN. CSN will wrap up their coverage with a Sept. 1 date at FedEx Field with the Buccaneers. The broadcast team of Kenny Albert, Joe Theismann, and Richard “Doc” Walker will call the action.

“These preseason games are a big thing for us,” laughs Bell. “I really look forward to it because hey, I’m an American and I love football too.”