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Ditka signs 2-year extension to stay at ESPN in ‘new role’

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29: Mike Ditka, former NFL player and coach, and current ESPN analyst, talks with reporters during the ESPN media availablility in the Empire West Ballroom, at Super Bowl XLVIII Media Center at the Sheraton New York Times Square on January 28, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After bouncing him from the “Sunday NFL Countdown” show in favor of recently retired quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, ESPN announced Wednesday that Mike Ditka has been signed to a two-year extension “to remain at ESPN in a new role as a contributor to SportsCenter.”

ESPN says Ditka will contribute to the network’s flagship news and information program on a year-round basis beginning in September.

“This new role is really a blessing,” Ditka said in a statement. “It’s something I asked for. After many years of weekend travel, I’m thrilled I’ll get to watch NFL games on Sundays and Monday nights in the comfort of my own home. I enjoy being part of the game and part of ESPN. I really do. So this is a great solution.”

Added Seth Markman, ESPN’s senior coordinating producer, NFL studio shows: “Mike talked with me late in the year about his role for next season. Thankfully we were able to come to an agreement that works for him and keeps him a part of our ESPN family. This announcement is great news for us and for our viewers, as Coach Ditka continues to be someone NFL fans everywhere respect and admire.”

Ditka, who also writes a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times during the Bears season, has worked with ESPN since 2004.

Last week, Ditka violated a recent edict from ESPN during a radio show Thursday in New York.

In guidelines sent recently to all ESPN on-air talent, analysts have been warned to avoid discussing politics.

“We should refrain from political editorializing, personal attacks or ‘drive-by’ comments regarding the candidates and their campaigns. Approved commentaries on sports-specific issues, or seeking responses from candidates on relevant news issues, are appropriate. However, perceived endorsements should be avoided,” the guidelines stated.

Though Obama is not a candidate, Ditka’s piercing comments exploded via social media. During his appearance on WABC-AM radio in New York, Ditka didn’t hold back, blasting Obama and throwing his support behind Donald Trump.

“Obama is the worst president we’ve ever had,” Ditka told hosts Sid Rosenberg and Bernard McGuirk.

Ditka, who guided the 1985 Bears to a Super Bowl victory, also questioned Obama’s skills as a leader.

“Barack Obama’s a fine man. I mean, he’s pleasant,” Ditka said. “He would be great to play golf with. He’s not a leader. This country needs leadership. It needs direction. It needs somebody that steps up front. We need somebody like Ronald Reagan.

“Every once in a while you’re going to get punched in the chops. But you keep going forward. That’s all there is to it,” he added. “You know it’s not always going to be a perfect situation, but to do what he does, there’s no leadership there. I think that becomes very disgusting to me.”

“If I were to vote tomorrow,” Ditka said, “I’d probably vote for Trump.”