Your new, improved (?) ‘Inside the NFL’

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The lineup at Showtime that we actually pay attention to — “Weeds” (obvious reasons … c’mon, Mary-Louise Parker), “Penn & Teller: Bull(crap)” (because when you gotta keep up with what’s real and what’s manufactured in today’s world, you turn to the world’s best illusionists) … not so much “Californication,” “Dexter,” “The L Word” or “The Tudors,” but we’re aware of it.

Add to that the latest version of “Inside the NFL” — tonight, 9 p.m. (instead of HBO at 10 p.m.) — and the new season will use an eclectic collection of guests for its debut.

Joining new host James Brown and new studio members Phil Simms and Warren Sapp (with holdover Cris Collinsworth, instead of Dan Marino) are NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former L.A. Rams star defensive end Deacon Jones and ….

“Dancing With the Stars” heifer hoofer Kym Johnson. For real.
It’s because she’s hooking up with Sapp to compete on the new edition of the reality show, which begins … does it really matter? Johnson has been on the show four years, dancing with Jerry Springer, Joey Fatone (as they’re pictured above), Mark Cuban and Penn Jillette.

Still, we have reservations about her taking a leap with someone so grounded (i.e., gravity challenged) as Sapp. Just as we do having him on a network that promotes weed.

Already, it was Sapp on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday who probably caused a ripple by calling Florida coach Urban Meyers a “dirtbag” for kicking a field goal in the closing moments during an easy win over Sapp’s alma mater, Miami, last Saturday.

Collinsworth said about how this year’s cast compares and contrasts from previous years: “If feels remarkably like what we did at HBO. There’s something about a bunch of football players who are able to reflect on the game and look forward to how it applies. On Sunday, everyone was ‘Oh, my goodness, Brady is gone,’ but on this show, that’s history. It’s ‘what happens now?’ How does Matt Cassell impact the rest of the season for a team that was one 83 yard drive away from a 19-0 season a year ago. this Now you’ve got a backup who’s driving the Rolls Royce of the NFL.”

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As for Cassel, the former USC backup out of Chatsworth High who’s now in the spotlight of the Patriots’ offense, Simms said: “I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt, how fast he can catch up and get into the flow.”

When asked if Cassel today could do what Brady did for the Patriots in 2001 (when he came in for Drew Bledsoe), Simms said: “I’ve heard that a lot but what I have to say about Casel, I’ll do more live on the show. I know alot about him, I knew alot about him when he was the backup at USC to Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, so there’s nothing about him that will surprise me. I think there’s a chance he can not only be successful, but very successful.”

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