A story out of the Jacksonville Jaguars camp raises some concern for the sports media as well as NFL fans. The Jaguars, by way of Coach Mike Mularkey, have threatened their players with a fine reported to be several thousand dollars for talking "publicly" about injuries.
This sort of thing would be understandable if it wasn't for the regular "reporting" of such information throughout the league. The teams are required to have a depth chart, and to show any players that are "probable", "out", or on injured reserve for the coming week's game. Many newspapers and web sites with NFL content run injury reports for the local team and often league-wide. Beat reporters and national analysts are scouring every possible source for any possible information about injuries, trades, and un-signed players available to be plugged in to an opening.
These reporters are now facing being put into some difficult situations if the Jaguars (and certainly other teams will follow since this ability to fine was reportedly "signed off" by the NFL office) who are looking to keep fans up to date about the status of players. Fans want to know about the status of players on "their" team, and fantasy league "coaches" want to know before they submit their starters for the coming week's games.
As it is, sports fans are getting way too much speculation and not enough fact when it comes to possible trades, player transactions, and signings. The baseball example from last week in which an MLB official reportedly confirmed a trade involving Ryan Dempster going from the Cubs to the Braves as happening only to have it picked up and then denied within an hour is another recent example of this.
Team reporters could be put in the postion of speculating about an injury if they are not able to get it from the players before the team issues an update. If the player will be fined, he won't talk. If the reporters pursue a player who appears to be injured knowing that players could be fined, those reporters will be shut out by the majority of players, and I can't blame them.
Let's say a lineman for the Jaguars shows up for practice tomorrow on crutches, but the team does not yet have the medical report so it (team) isn't saying yet. Reporters from the team now cannot ask the player, or any other players who may have been on the field or with that possibly injured player, about what happened, because any player who "discusses" the injury could be fined several thousand dollars.
It can, quite legimiately, happen where a player has to stay off an ankle (and on crutches or on wheels) for even a couple of days to rest as possible minor sprain, in hopes of playing on the coming weekend. The team wants to wait 24 to 48 hours to see how a treatment responds before making a decision about that player's starting status. A reporter sees this player unable to practice, but cannot ask him. If the reporter "reports" that (name of player) is on the sidelines on crutches, he or she is doing his/her job. Yet, without the facts to back the story, the speculation will start. How long would this player be out? Is it worse than the team is letting on?
Fans want to know how their favorite team looks for the coming weekend. The NFL supports fantasy leagues by making so many more statistics available and by allowing its TV,radio, and online partners access to publish in-game and up-to-the-minute individual player stats.
These networks, local stations, sports related web sites, and those who report on NFL teams should be very concerned about at least one team looking to control what its players tell the media about something which is important to the fans.
While NFL Network gets ready to debut their 4-hour morning show next week, as of press time the network was hours away from losing more than 600,000 subscribers in the midwest due to another network vs. cable company price dispute. This will especially impact the Cincinnati Bengals' markets, as the most impacted areas will be Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville, Lexington (KY), and Bowling Green. Time Warner Cable, which has taken over Insight Cable, reportedly opted not to renew, while Cablevision (which serves other parts of the country) also had not struck a new NFL Network deal as of this past Friday.
The bigger shame is that the subscribers have no say in whether or not to pay the same or additional fees, or have the networked dropped and move on.
A few days after adding to its roster of football analysts, ESPN is beefing up their college hoops analyst roster. In addition to adding Jalen Rose to some college hoops telecasts and programming along with his NBA duties, the network has added former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and former VA Tech coach Seth Greenberg to the mix. Each will handle studio segments as well as some game assignments starting with the coming season.
ESPN has announced its Big 12 "Big Monday" schedule for the coming season, including a King Day (1/21) doubleheader. West Virginia, the newest addition to the Conference, will be featured in three Monday games, while Kansas will make four appearances.
Compass Media, which will broadcast the Big Ten Championship (football) Game and Big Ten (basketball) Tournament, will also be able to carry regular season broadcasts of selected football and basketball games via Learfield Sports on a national basis by picking up school broadcasts. Among the schools handled by Learfield are Alabama, Oklahoma and OK State, Boise State, Texas A & M and Texas Tech, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, as well as North Carolina and N.C. State.
The "time-filler" battle to have live sports on no matter what the event is continues. Now CBS Sports Network has signed to carry the United Football League games on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the UFL season. The kicker is that these games will likely be available to more homes than the NFL Network.
SAN FRANCISCO: Looks as though the NFL is gaining still another media related income source. ESPN Deportes KTRB 860 has signed a deal to air the 49ers games through the 2018 season - in Spanish. Several NFL teams do not have any radio deal locked up for the next seven seasons, or any Spanish radio broadcasts. Ironically, KTRB had turned down a multi-million dollar offer from the Oakland A's who had used the station as their flagship for the 2010 season before the station was sold to the group which went to the Spanish language sports format.
WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM ESPN 980 has brought over WTTG-TV channel 5 Sports Director Dave Ross to fill in for Tony Kornheiser on weekdays from 10 AM to Noon. As you would expect, the Redskins will be the focus (even with the Nationals on their first-ever serious run for the post-season) and the show will originate, most days, from the WTEM remote studio at Redskins Park.
HOUSTON: KILT 610 has added former NFL players Seth Payne, Ted Johnson, and Chester Pitts to its roster of Texans analysts for its ongoing coverage. The three former players replace N.D. Kalu and Greg Koch, who left to go to KBME 790 a few weeks ago. It appears the three will share time with Barry Warner on the evening shift, as Shaun Bijani has given up his co-host role as of this week. Bijani has returned to high school coaching.
KBME, meanwhile, will air University of Houston football and basketball through 2015 under a just announced new agreement, including two hours of programming surrounding each football broadcast.
COLUMBUS: Fox Sports Ohio will now air "Game Time With Urban Meyer" for one hour at 9 AM each Saturday morning starting on September 1st and continuing for 13 weeks through November.
FT. COLLINS: KFKA 1310 adds a local midday show starting next Monday (8/6). Troy Coverdale, who has been with the station for the past ten years, and basketball analyst Brady Hull will co-host. Coverdale will continue to host "Northern Colorado Preps Preview" on Friday nights.