Those who cover the Vikings have seen a definite change in coach Brad Childress' demeanor this training camp compared to a year ago. Entering his second season, Childress appears far more at ease and personable.
But that doesn't mean all media members are happy with him.
Longtime WCCO sports anchor Mark Rosen is among those frustrated by Childress' decision to limit how much footage can be shot by photojournalists during training camp practices. Until this year, nearly all practices during the Mankato-portion of camp could be recorded. But fearing opponents might get a competitive advantage by seeing too much, especially on the Internet, Childress has mandated that only individual drills can be filmed before video and still photography must cease.
"I'm just being cautious," said Childress, noting the Vikings have people who look at what footage is available of other teams. "I think you can get what you want to see with guys moving around."
The television folks beg to differ. While the local nightly sportscasts can show players stretching or working within their position groups any drills that feature the offense against the defense are off limits.
"That's the meat and potatoes of what we do," said Rosen, who found out about the change in policy a day before the Vikings reported to camp. "Features we do on guys such as Adrian Peterson or Chad Greenway, from a viewers perspective that's where we get our best video. We can talk about Tarvaris Jackson completing a long pass to Bobby Wade but guess what? You're not going to see that on any telecast in the Twin Cities."
Rosen isn't the only one who is disappointed by the policy. "We're not happy with it because if something happens we have to say it but can't show it," said Steve Johnson, executive sports producer for KSTP (Ch. 5). "We're a visual medium and can't show things so that is discouraging. ... It's difficult to convey how the team is doing on the field without [more action] pictures."
The Vikings are within their rights, according to the NFL's policy on training camp access. The league mandates that starting with the first day of camp and through at least the completion of Week 2 of the preseason that all daily practices must be open to local media. But "it is permissible to limit the videotaping or photographing of certain portions of training camp practices."
Teams take different approaches in setting rules on this. Two of the Vikings' foes in the NFC North, Chicago and Green Bay, allow all of their practices to be shot this time of year -- teams become much more restrictive as the regular-season approaches. The Packers' only request is that an occasional drill not be taped and that when a player is injured it not be filmed. Detroit, however, has employed the same policy as the Vikings since 2002.
This allows for about 40 minutes of taping once the actual practice begins. The New England Patriots, considered among the NFL's most secretive teams, allow video shooting for the first hour of practice during camp and still photographers can shoot the entire two hours.
Childress makes it clear he doesn't want to have to worry about the film getting into the wrong hands, especially if someone posts it on the Internet. "I was watching some footage of the Eagles the other day on the [Philadelphia Enquirer website] where I saw a little fullback material. A quick flip outside. Well, I'd rather just not have that. There are some things that you can tell and kind of make a note and say, 'I saw a double reverse on the throw.' And they are not going to bring it to me to edit."
Rosen's reply: "As [former Vikings coach] Bud Grant said, 'Everyone runs the same plays -- it's when you run them.'"
Rosen, who has covered the Vikings since the mid-1970s, is also miffed because the decision was never discussed with local TV types. "I plan on writing a letter to [Vikings owner] Zygi Wilf to express my opinion about what went on," Rosen said. "I wish we would have been able to have a conversation if nothing else. If Brad wants a more open relationship with the media I think this would have been a good chance to have a constructive conversation. If he said, 'I understand your point but this is the way I want to run camp,' at least we would have talked about it. What bothered me was it was, 'This is the way we're doing it and live with it.'"
Judd Zulgad firstname.lastname@example.org