Football often comes with an incredible amount of paranoia about media and/or fans observing practice, with lots of college and NFL teams cracking down on access to practices in recent years. The latest attempt to do that came from the Houston Texans, who tried to end their training camp rules (which include more media access than the regular season) early and shift to a regular-season model. But after local media protested, the NFL stepped in and made the Texans comply with league-wide policies on training camp duration. Here’s more on that from John McClain of The Houston Chronicle:
The Texans told reporters who cover the team that Wednesday would be the last day of training camp and they would switch to regular-season mode Thursday, two days before the first preseason game at Green Bay.
The change would mean media limitations would go into effect, but there was one problem — NFL rules say, “All daily practices must be open in their entirety to local media through Aug. 26.”
The Texans were informed of the violation, and they changed back to training camp mode.
Now reporters can continue to watch all of practice until two days before the last preseason game Aug. 28 against Tampa Bay at NRG Stadium.
It’s good to see the NFL enforcing a rule to preserve media access, as that hasn’t always been the case. There’s been lots of restricted access in the NFL recently. But this rule in particular seems like something that’s causing very little harm to the league’s teams, and something that can provide benefits for the local media. As per harm to teams, this is a league-wide regulation; local media have access to all teams’ practices through the 26th, so it’s not like any one team has their practices more exposed than any other team. And media watching practices very rarely leads to important team secrets being exposed; it more frequently leads to smarter and more insightful questions to players and coaches after practices, and to more thoughtful coverage of the team.
On some levels, it’s somewhat understandable why some football coaches have some concerns about media and fan access to their practices. Football perhaps more than any other sport relies on set plays, and on countermeasures to others’ plays; that’s why watching film of opponents is so prioritized and so important. And if someone whose strict agenda is relaying everything that one team did in practice to an upcoming opponent does take in a practice, that could conceivably have some negative impacts for the team in question; we’ve seen some attempts at that in the past in various leagues. But that’s not really what media coverage of practices is in this day and age, and the paranoia seems awfully overblown. So it’s nice to see the NFL step in here to enforce a couple of further weeks of practice access in Houston.