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Upfronts 2012: ESPN is ready for some NFL football

May 15, 2012 | 11:12 am

Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens

It may be the off-season, but it’s never too early to start beating the drums for the reigning ratings champ, the NFL. ESPN executives wasted little time at their annual upfront for advertisers Tuesday morning, trumpeting the network’s round-the-clock, multi-platform coverage of sports in general and the NFL in particular.

While tacitly dismissing growing competition from niche outfits as the MLB and NFL networks, ESPN executives boasted that their network is perfectly positioned to capitalize on the continued rise in sports viewing, which has seen a dramatic increase over the past several seasons for NFL games. Advertisers are especially attracted to live sporting events, which are largely seen as bulletproof to the DVR.

Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico, who host ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” pumped the slate of upcoming NFL games on the network that include a pair of contests featuring new Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and a November matchup between the Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers.

Later, 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis was introduced and Gruden asked him how much longer he could keep playing, as Tuesday marked his 37th birthday.

“When you love it, why stop?” Lewis replied.

Next up was Justin Tuck, a defensive lineman for the New York Giants, who was asked if he had any advice for highly touted rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

“Run,” said Tuck.

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— Martin Miller

Photo: Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens   Photo credit: Cary Edmondson / US Presswire

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