Shanahan cautions media on discretion
The past month of Redskins practice has been covered as no month of Redskins practice in franchise history, with dozens of daily tweets and blog posts from about a dozen dedicated beat writers. There have been instant updates on injuries, formations, catches and drops, plus a slew of instant quotes from every press conference.
Occasionally, the reporters have noted which players are lining up with the first team and which with the second, as well as unusual formations or personnel groupings. And apparently, it got to be a bit much for Coach Mike Shanahan, who cautioned the media on Monday to cut this out.
"First of all, I heard some rumors that people are talking about if [Albert Haynesworth is] playing first-team, second-team," Shanahan said early in his daily press gathering. "If people come out here and they start talking about who's gonna play in our three-wide receiver package, who's gonna play in our nickle, and it's reported, then you're not gonna be invited to practice. You know, that's strategy. That's within the confines of our organization. And if you guys would like to come out and watch practice, please don't print different rumors or different things you see out there, because that's a competitive advantage. And one of the reasons I'd love to have open practices is you can go out there and talk about the team, but not get involved on who's first team, who's second team, things along those lines."
For the record, this is somewhat of a gray area. NFL policies require teams to open at least the first 30 minutes of practice during the regular season, but teams set the ground rules on what can be reported, and "anything involving use of personnel as it relates to game-planning and/or strategy is considered off limits by all clubs," a league spokesman e-mailed me.
By some ways of thinking, anything players do other than breathe could relate to game-planning and/or strategy, so it's sometimes tough to figure out what is and is not off-limits. But after the Maroon and Black Era, when Jim Zorn would go out of his way to explain exactly what personnel moves the Redskins had in mind, there is now an obvious move in the other direction. Later on Monday, Shanahan was asked about Clinton Portis being the starter.
"We don't talk about who's starting, who's second team," he said. "But if you guessed Clinton, you'd probably be pretty close to being right. I mean, it would look that way. But for obvious reasons we don't say who's gonna start, we don't talk about our substitute packages, different things along those lines. You guys've got to help me from that standpoint, because the different things I read, you're talking about who's playing. I've never had that since I've been in the National Football League, people talking about personnel groups. And you just don't do that, because it is an advantage to the opposition."
So, who will be the return specialists this week?
"Again, that's the same thing with personnel," he said. "It sounds silly, but it's not."
And Kareem Moore's availability?
"Same thing," Shanahan said. "We'll do that each week. I'm not gonna get into a lot of detail for the same reason we just talked about."
Late in the gathering, Chick Hernandez asked how Shanahan's life has changed in this information age.
"I understand your job, believe me," the coach said. "We've all got a job to do. But my job is to protect our football team, and with you getting a chance to go out here every day, confirming different things or not confirming, to me that's a difference sometimes between winning and losing. You take a look at who's playing, and people sometimes don't give it a lot of thought and they just throw it out there, and sometimes it can be a big advantage or disadvantage."
And before this all ended, someone asked Shanahan if he really is reading all these reporter tweets.
"I don't even know how to get there," he joked.
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