BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Those of us who occasionally tell Andy Reid how to do his job can't get too upset when the coach tries to tell us how to do ours. So it would be disingenuous to react with outrage after Reid turned the media tent on the Lehigh practice fields into his own personal woodshed yesterday afternoon.
It would be almost as disingenuous as Reid's own fake ire about the way reporters chased news of linebacker Stewart Bradley's injury. The whole episode was, after all, Reid's own fault.
Bradley left Sunday's Fright Night practice at Lincoln Financial Field after a noncontact injury to his knee. There was no indication that the injury was serious. Bradley didn't writhe on the field or leave on one of those little carts. The early word was that he would get an MRI exam the next morning.
The first report that Bradley would miss the season with a torn ACL came from Howard Eskin, who called in to WIP-AM (610) with the news. That report was quickly picked up by national Web sites such as profootballtalk.com, which prompted other media outlets to seek confirmation.
We journalists have a technical name for this: We call it 2009. Perhaps Reid still has that 1999 calendar hanging on the wall of his office - right over the computer with the dial-up AOL connection.
After the Eagles' only practice of the day, Reid stepped into the tent to address reporters. As always, he began with injuries. This time, though, he announced that he would not discuss them. As a punishment for reporters calling Bradley and his agent rather than waiting for official word from the mountaintop, Reid wouldn't tell us about Bradley or Ellis Hobbs or any other boo-boos sustained by his players.
No doubt the coach felt he was sticking it to the lowly wretches who cover his team. Really, he came off as childish and petty.
The initial report, after all, came from Reid's carefully cultivated media rep. If Reid didn't tell Eskin directly, he certainly has encouraged a climate in which Eagles personnel view the WIP host as separate from the rest of the media. I'm not knocking Eskin, either. However he got the story, it was accurate and he was correct in reporting it as quickly as he could.
The point is, Reid created this situation. It's his own fault if he got tripped up this time.
Once the story breaks, the competition is on. The obvious thing for the Eagles to do at such a moment is release the news as quickly as possible, feeding the Twittering Blogmonster before it gets out of control. This organization has handled plenty of tricky PR crises. A knee injury to a linebacker is about as routine as it gets.
The Eagles can't even pretend to find the media frenzy distasteful. They gave up that right when they got into the media business themselves. One reason traditional reporters are so aggressive now is that the Eagles like to "break" news on their own Web site.
So let's review: Bradley had an MRI that showed a torn ACL in the morning. That news was broken by a radio personality Reid has granted special access for years. Reporters chasing the story used whatever means were at their disposal - calling Bradley's cell phone, trying to get confirmation from his agent - because the Eagles failed to announce the injury in a timely fashion. Then Reid made a big show of spanking the reporters by refusing to discuss injuries.
It's possible Reid was simply creating a diversion, making himself the focus rather than some other aspect of the story. You have to think a control freak of Reid's magnitude was less than thrilled about taking his team out of its training camp routine for the Plight Night charity event. You have to wonder whether the Eagles would have practiced on the Linc's grass field after all Sunday's rain if they hadn't sold thousands of tickets for the event. To lose a key starter under such conditions has to be frustrating.
Rather than get asked 10 questions about all of that, Reid threw a little fit about reporters breaking his untenable rules as they dealt with a situation he and the Eagles created.
Fortunately for you, the concerned Eagles fan, Reid has been better at dealing with injuries to starters than he has been at running area news outlets. The Eagles have survived injuries to Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, and Terrell Owens. They'll survive with Joe Mays or Omar Gaither playing middle linebacker.
Whatever Reid does, he isn't going to control the media. We're going to chase news and break his rules and, for good measure, tell him how to do his job.
He didn't do it particularly well yesterday.