Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills after two OTA practices:
>Rex Ryan made a feeble attempt at trying to make Scott Berchtold, the Bills' long-time vice president of media relations, the fall guy for the new media policy the team announced Tuesday.
He wanted reporters, upset about the team's sudden ban on sharing practice information such as dropped passes and interceptions, to know that he wasn't involved in the decision, that he's just responsible for the "day-to-day football operations ... so I'm pointing to Scott."
Nice try, Rex.
But it doesn't take a whole lot to figure out that the PR guy or his staff didn't take it upon themselves to put together a new set of rules for how the team wants the media to cover its practices. There was a larger organizational discussion that received input from coaches and other club executives. Something like this simply isn't done without multiple sign-offs. And you can be certain ownership was very much in the loop.
Coaches get annoyed when someone who isn't coaching dares to analyze what's happening during a workout. It's OK for them to chart quarterbacking statistics, but they don't like it when anyone else does so and dispatches the numbers in real time via Twitter. They want to be the only judges of what led to an incomplete pass, because heaven knows, something other than sheer inaccuracy contributed to a throw floating several feet over a receiver's head or bouncing in front of the intended target.
It doesn't work that way in the real world. You credential reporters to watch practice, we're going to report what we watch. We're going to provide opinions on what we see. It's all part of a process that leads to the same thing being done when we're sitting in the press box on game day. And pointing out which players are starting and which are not is also relevant and will continue to be done, just as it will when training camp begins and the stands are filled with people who will make conclusions based on what they see. By the way, the original policy included training camp in the practice-coverage rules, but Berchtold later said that was amended "because of all the fans who are there."
Funny, but there was no mention of touchdown throws or other positive plays being off limits. Last time I checked, defensive players make mistakes, too, and those errors often result in TD passes and other big gains.
Clamping down on the media doesn't serve the Bills well, as they've discovered through the backlash received locally and nationally. Still, the coaches clearly wanted to try to throw their collective weight around to let reporters know their presence is barely tolerated.
And there's a big part of me that can't help but think there's a business play here as well. The Bills and Pegula Sports and Entertainment -- the corporate umbrella overseeing the Bills and the Sabres -- have an army of people who are paid to figure out the best way to maximize the teams' revenue-generating potential. Making all of their digital content as exclusive as possible is one road, and among the ways to travel it is to keep all media (including their own) on an equal footing. Allowing mainstream media to report things that happen that the Bills' media aren't allowed to report is one less separation point between the entities that are competing for eyeballs and sponsorship dollars.
>Doug Whaley might very well have had a human moment when he went on the radio Tuesday morning and said he doesn't "think humans are supposed to play" football.
Maybe he thought he was speaking as a detached observer when weighing in on the violence of the game while answering a question about whether Sammy Watkins is injury prone.
But speaking as a general manager, what he said is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to reel back in.
On the same day that there was a great deal of national push back on the Bills' new media policy, there was an equal amount of head-scratching throughout the league over Whaley's comment. I heard from current and former NFL coaches, as well as from one former player in the media. The reaction ranged from stunned disbelief to, "Oh, man, did he step in it."
General managers are judged primarily on their track record for finding talent, and in that regard, the jury is going to remain out on Whaley until the Bills start to win. Still, the odd message from a man in his position is also going to factor into how he is perceived as the chief architect of an NFL team. Doing his job means fundamentally accepting that football is a violent game and that players do get injured and that his role is creating employment opportunities for those willing to take the inherent risks involved.
Perhaps he doesn't have any misgivings about that, but his words have definitely caused more than a few people to at least wonder if that's possible.
>No one is better at putting on a happy face, regardless of the circumstances, than Rex Ryan.
His start to his media briefing after Tuesday's OTA workout was almost comical. He talked about how excited he was and that he thinks the Bills "are going to have a heck of a football team."
Then, Ryan opened it up to questions ...
What about Shaq Lawson's shoulder surgery? What about Sammy Watkins' foot surgery? What about Stephon Gilmore staying away from the practices? What about Marcell Dareus being absent? What about Seantrel Henderson not being there and your not speaking with him since the end of last season? What about Dri Archer refusing to report to the team after being claimed off waivers?
Those topics, some thornier than others, don't necessarily mean Ryan is wrong to conclude that everything is just peachy at One Bills Drive. But when he started to do a bit of tap-dancing, especially with regard to Lawson and Watkins, it was hard not to be at least a tiny bit amused.