For the first time this year, the Buffalo Bills allowed the media to see the day of practice in Orchard Park during the yearly Organized Team Activities. But before anyone even walked through the door, the public relations department of all places caused a local and national stir.
Just hours before the practice, the Bills sent a brand new, and detailed media policy that essentially told reporters covering the team what was, and was not available to be reported. Some excerpts from the new media policy:
"Reports (which also include radio reports, tweets, podcasts and blogs) pertaining to strategic and tactical information are strictly prohibited. This includes:
o Referencing plays run or game strategy, including trick plays or unusual formations.
o Reporting on personnel groupings, sub-packages, players who are practicing with individual units (first-team, second team, goal line, offense, nickel defense, etc.), special plays, who is rushing the passer, dropped passes, interceptions, QB completion percentage, etc."
So, by these standards, reporters are not allowed to tell you who is lining up at which position, and where on the depth chart they may fall based on what they're seeing in front of them. It continued with how they felt injuries should be handled, from both a print, and television perspective.
"Ø Media should not report on any injury situation occurring during a practice that is not open to the public with detailed speculation to the potential nature, severity of the injury or level of practice participation. Acknowledging an injury occurred is permitted, but anything beyond a general report would be purely speculative and possibly inaccurate.
Ø Still and television photographers are not permitted to shoot or film injured players at a closed practice, even during the period that is open to the media. Filming of injured players rehabbing either before, during or after closed practices is prohibited."
Under these guidelines, if an injury happens, or if an injured player is rehabbing an injury to the side, reporters and photographers aren't able to touch it. As you might imagine, it didn't draw glowing reviews locally, and then it turned into a national ordeal.
#Bills come up with perhaps the single dumbest media policy I have ever seen. Seriously.
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) May 24, 2016
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 24, 2016
Ridiculous. No reporter should adhere to this nonsense. Bills media: Text me INTs, drops, etc. I'll tweet them https://t.co/1nuXH7OnV3
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 24, 2016
And now, the Bills have drawn the ire of the Pro Football Writers Association and their president Jeff Legwold. For those that are unaware, the PFWA works with the National Football League to make a league-wide media policy that teams must adhere to.
Legwold told the Associated Press that the new media policy enacted by the Bills on Tuesday is "a vast over-reach of the guidelines in the current media policy." He went on to say that the new set of rules is "not only unnecessary, it is not in compliance."
The Bills also had an informal meeting with the media once availability was finished on Tuesday. They clarified that the new rules were meant to do away with the play-by-play of practices, to stop statistics from practices, and to prevent nuanced formations from seeing the light of day.
They also stated that the rules were for the non-public practices, and that the same rules did not apply for the public practices seen at training camp. Even still, the new rules have drawn a lot of criticism, and they didn't come from the head coach.
"No," Rex Ryan replied when asked if he had a hand in the new media policy. "Our media policy is obviously not something that I’m involved in, mine is just with our day-to-day football operations."
Rex or not -- wherever it came from, it did not go over well on what should have been a day focused on the team on the field, and what they need to do to finally end the playoff drought. Instead, the strict new media policy is the talk of the league, fair or not.
We here at 7 ABC will continue to provide the analysis and coverage of the team that the public has come to know from us.