If you haven't heard, the Buffalo Bills made waves this past week because of a new media policy they put out regarding OTA practices. The policy said that the media was not permitted to report on things like:
- Who was receiving first- and second-team reps.
- Plays run during practice, game strategy, trick plays, and unusual formations.
- Players being used in specific sub-packages.
- Which players are rushing the passer.
- Whether a quarterback is completing his passes or if they are intercepted, or if a receiver catches or drops the ball.
Typically, during OTA sessions, you are teaching the very basics of the playbook. With 90 players on the roster and the real fun not ready to start until training camp, there doesn't seem to be much of a competitive advantage that other teams can obtain by reading that E.J. Manuel threw an interception to some defensive back, or that an undrafted player took a couple of snaps with the second-team offense.
The media is usually only invited to attend 1 of every 3 OTA sessions too, so the team has plenty of time to run operate without the media. When the media is present, though, almost anything they see should be fair game. If you're wondering why the Bills even bother letting the media attend any OTAs, they are required to do so (once every three OTAs) according to the NFL's media policy.
The NFL media policy also includes the following information regarding reporting on practice information:
Setting reasonable ground rules for coverage of practice – subject to the general access rules specified above – is the responsibility of the clubs. For practice sessions during training camp and minicamp that are open to the public, there should be a balance that addresses publicity for our teams, the role of media in serving our fans, and the goals and procedures set by individual teams. As such, we require that at least for practice sessions that are open to the public – and subject to guidelines set by clubs on the reporting of strategy – clubs must allow reporting (tweeting, blogging, etc.) of newsworthy events, such as VIP visitors to practice, exceptional catches, standout rookie performers, etc.
The last sentence would seem to go completely against what the Bills' public relations staff has set forth.
During the season is a little bit of a different story -- if the club wants the media to not report on a trick play they are trying to perfect for that week's opponent, it's understandable. Even during the offseason, if one particular media member was recapping every single play or substitution taking place in OTAs, I could see why it'd be a bit overkill. Show me a single reporter that is taking things to that extreme; you won't find one. By instituting the policy, the Bills brought even more negative publicity to themselves at a time when some team's are beginning to have more transparency in the offseason -- for example, the Browns opened one of their rookie minicamp practices to the fans this year, and the amount of video content on the team site is stronger than ever.