Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Andy Reid, his media rules and the NFL's

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Andy Reid, his media rules and the NFL's

Yong Kim/Staff photographer

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a middle linebacker shreds his anterior cruciate ligament in a scrimmage and the head coach refuses to confirm reports that it’s torn, did he really tear it?

The first question always has been too deep for me. The answer to the second one is, of course he tore it, no matter how much Andy Reid and his new defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott, wish it weren’t so.

Reid childishly refused to discuss Stewart Bradley’s injury Monday afternoon because he claims reporters breached a “pact” he made with the media when he first was hired by the Eagles in 1999. The deal: You don’t ask players and other club personnel about injuries and I’ll shoot straight with you about those injuries.

A couple of things about that “pact”: For starters, as it’s been pointed out by a number of my colleagues, the media isn’t employed by the Eagles. While he can order his players not to discuss injuries with the media, he can’t order the media not to ask about them.

More importantly, though, even if Reid thought there was a “pact,” he broke it a long time ago.

God knows how much money Joe Conklin has made off Reid’s habit of starting his news conferences with, “OK, injuries.” It’s always good for a laugh, but the truth is, early on, Reid’s injury updates actually were pretty informative.

At least compared to other coaches in the league.

This time of year, if a New England Patriots player gets hurt in training camp, the Boston media are lucky if Bill Belichick acknowledges the body part that was injured. A couple of years ago, cornerback Ellis Hobbs had wrist surgery on a Tuesday and was listed as “probable” by Belichick on the Thursday injury report.

As for Reid, he used to be fairly thorough and honest about the severity of player injuries. Put time and effort into his injury updates. But at some point, he started to get sloppy with them. Much like the rest of the portions of his news conferences, he started to put less and less effort into his injury updates, apparently deciding that the less he told reporters the better. In many cases, he fibbed.

Last year, when tight end L.J. Smith reinjured his surgically repaired sports hernia, Reid tried to tell us it was “a different area” of the groin and unrelated to the original sports hernia. Yeah, and I’ve got some oceanfront property in Kansas you might be interested in.

Once upon a time, Reid made sure the Eagles’ media relations department released information on every offseason player surgery. But when Brian Westbrook had surgery on his injured knee in February, not a peep from the NovaCare Complex. Westbrook’s agent eventually acknowleged a procedure.

When wide receiver Kevin Curtis had to have a second surgical procedure to repair his sports hernia in April, Reid said the surgery was to “finish” the orginal repair. Huh? C’mon, big guy. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve stayed at a Holiday Inn Express a few times.

When I talked to Curtis at training camp last week, he made it clear that the only reason he needed the second surgery on his groin was because he came back too soon from the first operation and aggravated the injury. When offseason rest didn’t do any good, another surgery was the only option.

Bottom line: Reid’s word on injuries these days isn’t very reliable. Plus, in this instant-information electronic age where Michael Jackson’s death was reported about two seconds after his heart stopped, did Reid really think he could sit on a season-ending knee injury to one of his star players for several hours? Is he really that out of touch with the way things work in today’s world?

Oh yeah, another thing. The same guy that was chiding the media Monday about not “abiding by the rules,” apparently doesn’t think he has to do the same.

Since he became the Eagles’ head coach, Reid has allowed very limited access to his position coaches. If you wanted to talk to one of them, you had to go through the media relations department, and if, if, Reid green-lighted the request, the questions could only be about the coach. Nothing about the team. Nothing about the players at the position he coached.

In other words, if I were interviewing offensive line coach Juan Castillo, I could ask him about his son Gregory, who is a cornerback at Iowa, or his son John, who is a distance runner at North Carolina State. But I couldn’t ask him about any of his linemen.

Well, a few months ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made some significant changes to the league’s media-access policy. He essentially told coaches they no longer could prevent reporters from talking to position coaches.

The Eagles have made only the offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators available on a regular basis.

The new policy states, “primary position coaches must be available on a reasonable basis during training camp and throughout the season through the team public relations department. Clubs may not put assistant coaches off limits to the media and may not unreasonably withhold permission for primary position coaches ... to speak to the media.”

So, last week, I went to Eagles media relations director Derek Boyko and put in a request to talk to Castillo about his remodeled offensive line. Boyko told me he would run it by Reid. Reid told Boyko that HE would talk to me about the offensive line, not Castillo. When I asked whether Reid was denying my request to speak to Castillo, Boyko said, “No, he just said he would rather discuss it.”

Now, Reid has had plenty to say about his offensive line, none of it all that informative. Which is why I wanted to talk to Castillo, who is egarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. I wanted to talk to him about the challenge facing his new left tackle getting used to the nuances of a new quarterback. I wanted to talk to him about Shawn Andrews’ move from right guard to right tackle. I wanted to talk to him about how long he thinks it will take his line to gel.

The NFL says Castillo, who has been an Eagles assistant since 1995 and has been Reid’s offensive line coach since he arrived in Philadelphia, can talk to the media about these things. The rules in the league’s media access policy say so. But Reid apparently has decided he doesn’t have to abide by those rules. Yet, he somehow thinks we should abide by his rules.

Not gonna happen.
 

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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