You may have heard about how the Buffalo Bills implemented a new media policy for reporters at the team's minicamps and OTAs.
Needless to say, there was plenty of mockery pointed toward the Bills for the seeming insistence that they didn't want anything even remotely negative to be reported on.
Now, the implementation of this policy was pretty well botched. There was no forewarning that the people who have made a living covering these things would have their jobs turned upside down by the team. The fact that the list of restrictions didn't include any positive plays made it seem like the Bills were trying to control the narrative to the point that everything the fans would see would be success, a fact reinforced by the Bills' own Twitter account posting things like this:
The narrative coming out of this policy is that the Bills' use of restraint on reporters takes them further away from the game, and by proxy does the same to the fans.
Does it, though?
I'm not here to defend the Bills on the way they handled this. I'm here to remind you how little any of what was or wasn't reported on yesterday actually matters.
One of the big things of note that happened was EJ Manuel's pick-six that Corey White was nice enough to post on Instagram (the merits of putting your team's all-22 practice tape on the Internet is a discussion for another day). The policy explicitly prevents reporters from reporting individual negative plays like interceptions, but the policy has its obvious loopholes.
A QB not named Tyrod Taylor or Cardale Jones just threw a pick-six on his first throw of team work.— Mark Ludwiczak (@MarkLud12) May 24, 2016
Here's the question: does that play really matter? We've all seen Manuel throw a pick-six before; he's done it twice in an actual game. Moreover, we already know he's a limited quarterback who is not likely to earn a long-term starting job in Buffalo or anywhere else. Even if that play had been completed to the receiver for a touchdown, the ship has sailed on the Bills fandom-at-large changing their opinions on the 2013 first-rounder.
Here's another tweet from yesterday's practice from John Wawrow, who provided a great deal of humor for his followers yesterday:
Have I told you before that Dez Lewis has bad hands? Just saying.— John Wawrow (@john_wawrow) May 24, 2016
That tweet encapsulates my entire point. We already know that Lewis has bad hands, and he's the one that told us. Does one dropped pass in a practice in May change that? Even if he had caught the pass, does that mean he's a lock to make the roster all of a sudden?
Sal Capaccio summed up the mood of the day best:
I'm more upset that today became about this media policy instead of football stuff than anything else.— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) May 24, 2016
This situation seems like a variation of the Streisand effect. If the Bills hadn't changed the media policy, the reporters would have put out a few tweets about what they saw and wrote up a nice little wrap-up at the end of practice, which many of them did anyway. Instead, Manuel's interception merited a mention on ESPN during a piece about the policy.
Most fans realize that individual plays in pre-camp practices are relatively meaningless. Let's not forget that simply because the team wants to shield their players from criticism.
If reporters want to lambaste players for mistakes when the plays don't mean anything? That's what the preseason is for.