The Shadow League recently caught up with Emmy Award winner Greg Gumbel, a 40-year journalist who has broken countless barriers throughout his career, to get his thoughts on the upcoming season, late John Saunders, and getting his mind right before the National Football League's regular season begins. 

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 (Photo Credit: adweek.com)


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The Shadow League: What are some of the things you'll be looking at as the season begins, particularly on the defensive side of the ball? 

Greg Gumbel:  It's kinda hard to look at defenses and not say Denver Broncos.  The problem is, can they get it done with a great defense and a quarterback no one knows?  The focus is always on the defending champions, always.  

I think the question is always can they perform as well as they did the year before.  When you're defending champions, you always have the bulls eye on your back, the sheriff's badge on your chest.  

The question becomes which of the rest of the teams will be contenders. There's always a surprise team or two. As talented as they were, I think the Carolina Panthers surprised a lot of people last year.  Can they get it done again this year? Probably not.  They had a helluva regular season.  Can they duplicate that? 

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 (Photo Credit: CBS Sports)

TSL: What are some of your sleeper teams? 

GG:  I think Tampa Bay is going to have a good regular season. I think Jacksonville is going to surprise some people.  There's prognostication from "experts" who say 'Yeah, we know this', but do you realize there are upsets every week in the NFL?  

What's the definition of an upset? It's who wins when nobody expected them to win. 

TSL: John Saunders was a beloved journalist.  What are some things you'll miss most about him?   

GG:  You can search the world over and not find a nicer person.  The second thing is, he was a hockey fan. I love hockey but I've never put on a pair of skates in my life.  But I love hockey, I love hockey on TV.  I can sit down and watch a hockey game between the two worst teams in the league.  

Being a fan of the game, you could sometimes detect his Canadian background.  You would hear him say 'We'll learn more a-boat" that and you'll say 'Did he just say a-boat that?'  But he was a terrific broadcaster and I think that's kind of superfluous to say that because if you don't realize that, if you don't know that, then you really haven't been paying attention.

And it's a shame to lose someone that young and that's the real tragedy.

TSL: How are you preparing as the season looms? 

GG: What I'm working on is trying to get back into form, trying to get out of the summer vacation mode, which I love.  I love my summertime.  Now I get to think about some different things for a change.  

I get a couple months off after the end of March Madness and now it's time to gear up for football.