April 14, 2011

The NFL Network's game coverage is getting a serious makeover.

SI.com has learned that Mike Mayock will join the NFL Network's broadcast team for its eight-game Thursday Night Football package. He will replace Matt Millen and Joe Theismann on the broadcast.

When contacted Thursday afternoon by SI.com, an NFL Network spokesperson declined to comment.

The network's next move for those games revolves around the play-by-play position. Bob Papa is a respected game-caller and has had held the job for the past three seasons, but sources tell SI.com that NFL Network is considering other broadcasters, including CBS and Big Ten announcer Gus Johnson, who currently calls NFL games for CBS (with analyst Steve Tasker) and served as the Lions play-by-play voice during the 2008 preseason. Johnson has become a favorite among the under-35 crowd for his hyper-intensity during the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

No formal announcement on Mayock or any other possible changes is expected for a number of weeks.

Mayock is one of the rising stars in sports broadcasting. He is considered by most fans as television's leading NFL draft analyst and last year replaced Pat Haden as the analyst on NBC's Notre Dame football coverage. He also served as the analyst, alongside Tom Hammond, on NBC's coverage of the wild-card playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks last season.

Millen was named an NFL Network game analyst in 2009, joining Papa in the booth. Theismann was added last season. Both Millen and Theismann were polarizing figures, often drawing the ire of fans on Twitter and other social media outlets. The addition of Mayock will be greeted positively in many corners.

Since grabbing a share of the NFL's game package, NFL Network has gone through a number of announcing teams for its Thursday Night Football program. HBO's Bryant Gumbel was the network's first play-by-play announcer and lasted two seasons before leaving in 2008. He was replaced by Papa, the voice of the New York Giants.

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