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Camera suits Nickerson

All-Pro linebacker Hardy Nickerson has become an old pro at doing promotional commercials, but it was a different story when he first stepped in front of the camera.

"If you asked me that question four years ago, man, I would have said: "I get tight, I start sweating,' " Nickerson said. "I started sweating in the weirdest places, between my toes, on my eyelids, behind my ears. But I feel pretty comfortable now."

Nickerson put his acting skills to use again in a Fox promotional shot in Tampa Thursday. The network, with the help of NFL Films, will produce a public-service announcement and a comedic promo involving four Bucs: Nickerson, Trent Dilfer, Errict Rhett and Alvin Harper.

Last year, Nickerson and coach Sam Wyche were the only Bucs involved, but the league's PSAs and personality spots received so much acclaim that four players from each team have been tabbed for the ads.

"What we did was brought out the fun part of the game," said Tracy Dolgin, Fox Sports executive vice president for marketing, who grew up in Tampa. "As a body of work, there had never been anything done like this that brought out the personality of the game.

"The core football fan loved it. They wanted to see the football players be themselves. They wanted to see the players have fun."

Comical scenes this year have Nickerson comparing his performance to a boxing match and Dilfer playfully emulating Bill Murray's Caddyshack


"The hardest thing to do is trying to be funny on camera," Dilfer said. "When you're trying to be funny, a lot of times it's stupid."

There's nothing stupid about the PSAs, however. Dilfer will deliver a message about parents believing in their kids, and Nickerson again will speak about stopping gang violence.

A Los Angeles native who has witnessed gang violence firsthand, Nickerson is particularly pleased with last year's anti-violence PSA.

"Last year was the first time I can remember that a professional athlete on camera, on television, prime time, was talking about staying away from violence," he said. "I think it hits the heart of a lot of young people."

Nickerson said he wouldn't mind if his appearances helped him cross over into acting. After a series of Fox spots, former Raider Howie Long has landed a spot in Broken Arrow, an action thriller starring John Travolta and Christian Slater.

Dilfer has a different retirement plan: "I'll be playing golf."

Sharpe speaks: Not only did former Packers receiver Sterling Sharpe speak to the media this week, he spoke well. Sharpe, sidelined at least one season by a spinal injury, will fill the role left by Phil Simms on ESPN's NFL Game Day and NFL Prime Monday.

Sharpe displayed a sense of humor and smooth, casual candor during a media conference call Wednesday.

His talent leads one to wonder why he spent so many years boycotting the media. Sharpe said leading questions and a lack of interest in "what I thought" during his 1988 rookie season prompted him to clam up.

According to Sharpe, reporters were more interested in getting his response to what coach Lindy Infante or receivers coach Buddy Geist said about him.

"Nobody came and gave me an opportunity to say what I thought, based on what I knew of the NFL," Sharpe said. "Of what I knew of playing that position and the standards of the guys who went before me. Nobody really asked me.

"So, I mean, if it wasn't important then and I caught 55 passes, then it wasn't important to me to discuss that when I caught 112 (1993) or when I caught 108 ('92) or when I caught 90 ('89)."

Fine-tuning: Under the terms of a new agreement, Robin Roberts will host ABC's Wide World of Sports while continuing to host ESPN's SportsCenter

at 6:30 p.m. NBC (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and HBO (noon-5 p.m.) will have double coverage of Wimbledon Monday and Tuesday.

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