Michele Tafoya leaving NBC’s ‘Sunday Night Football’ after Super Bowl LVI

Michele Tafoya’s time on the sidelines is coming to an end.

The longtime “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter is stepping away from NBC following the Super Bowl next month, the network announced on Tuesday.

“My time with NBC Sports has been the most satisfying of my career,” Tafoya said in a statement. “I’ve had the good fortune of collaborating with a team that is amongst the best at what they do, and the support I’ve received in this position has been unparalleled … Some may consider me crazy to walk away from one of the more coveted roles in sports television, and I do not doubt that I will miss many aspects of the job. But for some time, I have been considering other areas I would like to explore both personally and professionally. I couldn’t ignore that little voice anymore after what we have all endured over the last few years.

“There’s no better way to walk away from covering the NFL than with one more Super Bowl.”

Tafoya has been with NBC for 11 seasons. Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles will mark her fifth time working the game.

In total, she has covered more than 300 regular season games and 26 playoff games. Tafoya has won four Sports Emmys for Outstanding Sports Personality. She’s also spent time working on ABC and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and been part of coverage for the NBA, Olympics and more.

“Michele Tafoya is the perfect broadcast partner,” Al Michaels said in a statement. “I’ve worked with Michele on both the NFL and NBA on close to 350 telecasts and she always hits it out of the park. Her preparation is unmatched and her ability to convey what she’s addressing in the moment is flawless. And she does it in the snow or rain or heat or any element you can think of. What she does on the air speaks for itself but what she does behind the scenes in fleshing out stories through the years has been invaluable to me and to John Madden, Cris Collinsworth, Doc Rivers, Hubie Brown and every production unit she’s been a part of. And on top of all this is who she is — brilliant, funny, compassionate, understanding and a mom who just happens to have raised, along with husband Mark, two beautiful children. Working with Michele has been pure joy.”

NBC’s broadcast booth is expected to change significantly next season. Tafoya was replaced by Kathryn Tappen this season after she missed a few games in December. Tappen is reportedly a “clear leading candidate” to replace Tafoya next season.

Michaels has been rumored to be leaving NBC for Amazon, who will start broadcasting games on a regular basis next season. If that happens, Mike Tirico is expected to take over his play-by-play duties alongside Collinsworth.

“I am having such mixed emotions with this announcement. I am so happy that Michele gets to turn her attention to her passion for changing the world. But, I am saddened at the thought of losing such an important member of our family,” Collinsworth said in a statement. “Michele makes every day at NBC Sports fun. She can take a joke and she can certainly dish them out. We have all had so many laughs together that at times it is easy to take for granted how incredibly talented she is and how hard she works every day at her craft. Michele is our standard. When topics that require meaningful research and depth of thought come up on ‘Sunday Night Football,’ Al and I always say the same thing, ‘Let’s go down to Michele.’ Michele, we love you and will miss you badly.”

As for what Tafoya will be doing next, she isn't ready to talk about it yet. She told the New York Post that she's leaving “to pursue some other opportunities that are really meaningful to me.”

She did drop a few hints, though. For starters, her next job won't be in sports.

“If I wanted to stay in sports television, I wouldn’t be leaving,” Tafoya told the Post. “This is about opening a new chapter for me, so that’s really all I can say.”

When the Post asked her if her next job would allow her to share her opinions, she said “I think the safest answer to that is yes." She had some experience with that back in November, when she went on "The View" and was jeered by the crowd after saying she had no sympathy for Colin Kaepernick.

NBC Sports sideline reporter Michele Tafoya
Michele Tafoya will work her final game on the sidelines at the Super Bowl next month. (Kirby Lee/USA Today)