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This week's Playmakers episode features Courtney Cronin, who is in her third season covering the Minnesota Vikings for ESPN NFL Nation.
Cronin said that covering her beat "gives you a chance to really sink your teeth into what you're doing and get to know every single player...(and) people in the building from the front office to the coaching staff to the support staff."
She also mentioned that she loves the year-round nature of NFL coverage.
"I really enjoy getting to see how the process comes together of building teams," she said.
And there are so many stories to tell.
"There are 63 guys in every locker room," Cronin said "(There are) a lot of different stories to tell. To me, that's such a great opportunity to make you better as a journalist and really get to know these players for more than what they do on the field."
She emphasized the importance of being a "trusted voice" for the fans to listen to by developing connections within the organization and league.
"You're not just breaking news," Cronin said, "but you're also giving context to what matters and analyzing things from an objective viewpoint and truly explaining."
Cronin added that she is "not just focused on the now" in her role, using institutional knowledge and team/league history to provide key context.
Her favorite story on the beat was when she traveled to Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer's Northern Kentucky ranch this past summer. She was able to "see him away from football, in his element (and) on his land."
"It's nice to peel the layer of the onion back and find out more about what makes a person tick," Cronin said.
Cronin sees an increase in representation of women in not only sports media these days, but in sports in general.
"We're not an anomaly anymore, which is so cool," Cronin said. "That extends beyond the newspaper/print/online journalism. I know a ton of (women) who work for teams, radio stations, (in) PR, and on the agency side of it."
To bring together women who work in the NFL, she organized a happy hour during last year's NFL Combine.
"It's important to know that, yes, I might be the only woman in my media conglomerate or... in the locker room on a regular basis for the team I cover, but look around the league," Cronin said. "There are so many of us, everywhere. Representation is important, and I hope we can kind of continue to progress in that direction."
She further explained the importance of connecting women in the male-dominated sports sphere.
"When you are kind of in that minority, it's nice to be able to connect with other people and realize some of the issues that you have, you're not alone in that," Cronin said. "There are a lot of women in this industry, and trying to find common threads that connect us all...that's so important to me. We're better unified than we are when everybody's doing their own things fighting for themselves."
This week, Chris Hayre stopped by the Chargers locker room after practice to gather some knowledge about what the Bolts are expecting from the Vikings on Sunday.
"They run the ball very well," safety Adrian Philips said. "Dalvin Cook, he's been going crazy this year, and then even with (Stefon) Diggs and (Adam) Thielen on the outside, those guys are big-play seekers…I think (Diggs) is number two in yards per catch and Mike (Williams) is number one. The fact that we get that test this week, this is what you want when you play in the NFL."
Afterward, Hayre gathered this week's opposing view from Vikings beat writer Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune, who mentioned that defensive end Danielle Hunter will be a player Bolts fans should be concerned for on Sunday.
"He became the youngest player in NFL history with 50 career sacks," Goessling said. "He turned 25 at the end of October, and if you were to design a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, it's hard to imagine a guy that's a better fit than Danielle Hunter."
Finally, Hayre sat down with Daniel Popper of The Athletic, Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times and Gilbert Manzano of Southern California News Group for another beat writers roundtable. Manzano explained that defensive end Joey Bosa continues to be a menace, independent of his sack total.
"I think we've realized this year that he's more than just a sacks guy," Manzano said. "He can stop the run and he's all over the field."
Uchenna Nwosu: Chargers' Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Nominee
This season, Chargers players and coaches voted second-year linebacker Uchenna Nwosu as the team's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, an honor dedicated to a player who has shown exceptional character and work on the football field as well as in the community.
Nwosu was honored to receive this nomination from his teammates, attesting that his parents and his upbringing taught him the importance of giving back.
"I guess it's just in my DNA," Nwosu said. "My family has always been a very helpful family. We give back a lot. And that's how I was raised, to be kind, help others, put others first and just seeing a lot of people happy… to be able to provide that for people is very heavy on my heart."
This week on Backstage: Chargers, Hayley Elwood and Chris Hayre sit down with assistant equipment manager Kevin Duddy to talk about the Chargers wearing their royal blue uniforms on Sunday, the ins and outs of preparing for gameday, as well as how Duddy had to sew center Mike Pouncey's jersey back together on the sideline mid-game.
"If you think you have time, you don't," Duddy said. "So you have to go as fast as you can."