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No scoops for you: NFL team media policy has many restrictions

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Don’t expect to hear or read anything about dropped passes or interceptions that take place during Buffalo Bills practices.

Mentioning what might be said during a post-practice team huddle is also out. And forget about learning who opened practice at quarterback, or any other position for that matter.

Those are among the items the Bills are restricting from being mentioned as part of their wide-ranging media policy unveiled Tuesday, when reporters began arriving for the team’s first week of voluntary minicamps.

Under the heading, “Practice Reporting,” the Bills are barring media from reporting on personnel groupings, including which player is practicing with the starters. Other items that cannot be reported during practice include dropped passes, interceptions and a quarterback’s completion percentage.

Media members are barred from revealing any conversations that take place between players, coaches or team executives during practice. Videos and pictures also cannot be snapped in and around the locker room without team approval.

Team spokesman Scott Berchtold said most of the rules apply to practices closed to the public, not training camp, even though the policy does not spell out a distinction in some cases.

In an email to The Associated Press, Jeff Legwold, President of the Professional Football Writers of America, described the Bills’ new rules as “a vast over-reach of the guidelines in the (NFL’s) current media policy.” Legwold added, the Bills’ policy is “not only unnecessary, it is not in compliance.”

The PFWA works with the NFL in establishing a league-wide media policy that includes rules on what can be reported during practice, and when teams must make players and coaches available to the media.

The NFL’s media policy states teams can limit the videotaping or photographing of certain portions of closed sessions. As for open practices, the NFL policy states: “Clubs must allow reporting (tweeting, blogging, etc.) of newsworthy events, such as VIP visitors to practice, exceptional catches, standout rookie performers, etc.”

Teams can establish their own media policies, which must still comply with the NFL’s.

The New Orleans Saints bar reporters from bringing cellphones to practice. The media also can’t report on injuries that occur during training camp until coach Sean Payton provides an update or, in the regular season, once the team releases its injury report.

The New England Patriots ban reporters from revealing who’s practicing with the first- and second-team units.

All teams reserve the right to restrict media from reporting on some portions of practice — such as trick plays or formations — to maintain a competitive edge and not tip off opponents.

Legwold said the Bills’ rules do not meet that standard.

“Its full implementation has little impact, by any objective standards, on a team’s prospective on-field results in the regular season,” Legwold wrote.

Following practice, Berchtold told reporters they can make reference to interceptions or dropped passes, for example, so long as it’s not part of a string of play-by-play reporting.

Berchtold said the Bills drafted a media policy because the team’s current one had not been updated for several years.

He also noted that reporters keeping stats on players such as a quarterback are unfair, because it’s simply practice, when mistakes happen. As an example, Berchtold said an interception in practice could be the result of a bad throw or a receiver running the wrong route.

Offensive guard Richie Incognito had fun with the stir the media policy created by posting a note on his Twitter account: “Not sure if I’m supposed to be tweeting this with the new media policy, but since we started practice there are cookies in the lunch room.”

The Bills responded to Incognito with a note posted on their account, reading: “Our Cookie Media Policy allows players to tweet accurate information on type and formation of cookies consumed.”

NOTES: WR Sammy Watkins was on crutches and had his left foot in a walking boot after having surgery to repair a stress fracture last month. … Coach Rex Ryan said he’s had no conversations and has no indication why RB Dri Archer declined to report to the team last week after being claimed off waivers. … CB Stephon Gilmore was absent, and is working out on his own while he attempts to negotiate a long-term contract.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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