The craziest of NFL seasons has opened the door for some restrictions to be placed on media covering NFL teams.
On Thursday, Packers G.M. Brian Gutekunst took the blame for limits implemented by his team, and he explained the reasoning for the changes, which include prohibition on players taking first-team reps, position battles, and lineup rotations.
“I think, you know, the changing landscape right now of preseason with no preseason games, no fans at practices, as we got into it, it just changed things and, you know, obviously, there’s certain restrictions that are always placed on you guys as far as what you can and can’t report; and I just thought from a competitive advantage viewpoint this was the right thing to do for, you know, for the short term,” Gutekunst said, via Tom Silverstein of PackersNews.com.
Gutekunst made the change after seeing how other teams were handling the issue of reporting from training-camp practices closed off to fans.
“[A]s we kind of got into the first three days and kind of seeing the landscape of what other teams are doing and kind of the information we were gathering, again, without 8,000 people at practice and four preseason games, I just thought we were at a little bit of a disadvantage,” Gutekunst said. “We wanted to kind of equal the playing field. . . .
“Well certainly our pro scouts have always followed the local beat reporters in all the teams that they cover. Certainly this year it is more prominent just because there [are] no preseason games and you have less to go [on]. Again, are we going to make decisions off that information? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s all helpful to us as we go through and we attack the job that we have to do. Again, it’s a very temporary thing. It’s nothing permanent, I think it’s 10 days we have left before this changes [to regular-season reporting rules]. We always try to make the best decisions we can for our football team, and that’s the reason this decision was made.”
The Packers sent the following email earlier this week to the reporters covering the team: “Moving forward, media is no longer permitted to mention who is getting reps with the first team, second team, third team etc., nor who is being used in certain packages or if players are rotating among positions. It is permissible to comment on play results/player performances, but you must avoid all projections on the depth chart and personnel packages.”
This year, decisions regarding roster cuts and waivers claims and practice-squad construction will take on even more importance, as teams try to construct the right mixture of players at the various positions to ensure that they’ll be able to play and play well if/when there’s a COVID-19 outbreak. Players who can play multiple positions will have greater value, and teams will be even more strategic than usual when making decisions about who to claim, to cut, to sign, etc. without the benefit of preseason game film.