The San Diego Chargers certainly did not endear themselves to the local media, with the announcement that for the remainder of the season all team practices will be closed to reporters.
While the media will be able to view the first 30-45 minutes of practice, once team drills begin all members of the media will be escorted out, where they must wait until practice is finished before the opportunity to conduct interviews.
The new policy was implemented by Chargers general manager John Butler, who claims that during his fourteen-year tenure with the Buffalo Bills, practices were similarly closed to local media.
"We're not here to hide anything," Butler told reporters. "We're here to prepare and get ready for our next opponent. We're trying to get this football team ready so our fans are very proud of it and have great things to read and talk about during the week."
The change is an abrupt departure from the open media policy first introduced during the Mike Riley regime two years ago.
Given the head coach's comments when the announcement was made, it's clearly something that Riley is uncomfortable with.
While he politely supported Butler's decision, it was his manner of speech and uncomfortable body language that lead many to believe this is the first in possibly a long line of conflicts the two will have throughout the season.
"We want to have this time with our team, by ourselves, because there are some things strategically that we don't want in any way to go out of this facility," Riley said. "We don't feel like there's been mistrust, one bit, but this would prevent any unforeseen or inadvertent mistake happening. This is our one hour of private work that we want."
Former head coach Kevin Gilbride instituted a similar policy during the 1997 season, forcing reporters to watch practice from a hill overlooking the team's publicly financed headquarters. That decision was later abandoned the following spring, but the wall put up between the organization and the media was clearly formed.
Those covering the team felt slighted, and subsequent coverage reflected the poor relationship that Gilbride had instituted.
Coming off a 1-15 season, one would think that the Chargers would make a special point of developing a good working relationship with those whose job it is to critique and report on a regular basis.
But, considering this team hasn't made the playoffs in over five years, and were the recipients of last year's NFL worst record, nothing surprises me anymore.
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