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Packers put new restrictions on what media can report from training camp practices

Tom Silverstein
Packers News

GREEN BAY – When it comes to allowing their fans a glimpse into their closed training camp practices, the Green Bay Packers are starting to resemble their buttoned-down rival, the Chicago Bears.

On Tuesday, general manager Brian Gutekunst issued a new media policy restricting media members from reporting anything about the starting lineup, projecting who they think might be a starter or key backup, and what players are rotating in and out at a position up for grabs.

The rule pertains to tweets from practice and stories written or broadcast.

Normally, training camp practices are open to the public and the media is free to report on roster battles, position changes and most anything else that doesn’t reveal a team’s strategy.

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But with all camps closed to the public and no preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL has given teams permission to set their own rules about what information can be disseminated from practice and whether reporters can tweet highlights in real time.

The NFL has given them that option because without preseason games, opposing teams have no way to personally scout another team’s personnel. One way to keep track of such things is to read media reports out of camp and apparently some teams want as little information revealed as possible.

After allowing their normal rules the first three days of practice, Gutekunst changed the policy and added restrictions that shut down even information on who is in the starting lineup. It is the strictest policy in the NFC North short of the Bears, who for years have had the tightest media policies in the division.

In an email to media outlets, the Packers said:

“Moving forward, media is no longer permitted to mention who is getting rep(etition)s 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.”

The Packers acknowledged the rules were harsher than normal, “but it is important that we do not put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage.”

They did not say what would happen if the rules were violated.

A sampling of media reports from training camps of the Packers’ main NFC competitors showed plenty of depth chart discussion, information on player usage and speculation on what the depth chart looks like.

For instance:

  • In a story in The Athletic about the New Orleans Saints, it identified former Wisconsin linebacker Zach Baun receiving snaps with the first team and defensive back P.J. Williams lining up at safety and cornerback.
  • In the Detroit Free Press, it was reported that Lions’ first-round draft pick Jeff Okudah was working with the second team.
  • On the San Francisco 49ers’ own website, it was reported that cornerback Jamar Taylor had been seeing first-team snaps with K’Waun Williams out with a calf injury and that cornerback Jason Verrett saw first-team snaps opposite Richard Sherman.
  • The Minnesota Vikings’ website revealed the new starting offensive line and reported that two players were rotating at left guard. In addition, the Vikings are one of several teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles, who livestream parts of their practices.

In the past, the Packers have had limitations on some things that can be reported, but in general reporters were free to describe what they saw during training camp. During the regular season, the club must allow reporters in for the start of practice, but can send them out once they go to 11-on-11 drills.

On Twitter, there was a lot negative reaction to the Packers’ decision.

  • “You all need to end these BS new media rules,” one person wrote. “If you’re really ‘community owned’ you need to let the media do its job so we, the community who owns you, can stay informed and invested.”
  • “If they’re gonna pull this sh-- they’d better win,” said another poster.
  • “The new policy put out by The Packers is embarrassing and an insult to the Journalists and the fans,” a reader wrote in an email to the Journal Sentinel. “If present leadership thinks that it will take these measures for the Packers to have an advantage over other teams, then they must not have much confidence in the present talent level on the team or the coaching staff.”

There also were people who were OK with the new policy.

“We deserve a Championship in my opinion. Whatever they have to do to make that a reality, do it. We can survive a few weeks without Stories that could be totally outdated and wrong in a month anyways. Put your Bucks hats on and enjoy some NBA Playoffs in August!!”, said one tweet.

Gutekunst was not made available Wednesday but was scheduled to meet with reporters on a Zoom call Thursday afternoon. The Packers practice inside Lambeau Field on Thursday and are off Friday.