Badmouthing Butch

The Browns' closed practices rub beat reporters raw.

The relationship between Butch Davis and the media hasn't officially soured, but already some Browns beat reporters are pouting with the ferocity of spurned prom dates.

Davis has earned the passive-aggressive ire of a few hacks who cover the team for the unpardonable sin of restricting access to certain practices. Most NFL coaches let media geeks observe the last half-hour of workouts that are otherwise closed to the press. Davis has halved that to 15 minutes, severely hampering reporters' efforts to stand beneath the afternoon sun and look precancerous.

This unprecedented act of aggression had a couple of cheesed-off reporters mewling recently at the Browns' Berea facility. During closed workouts, reporters must stay inside the media room -- essentially a bunker with laptop hookups -- with the shades drawn. It's not the worst place to kill a few hours: The AC is cranked, there's free pop and coffee, and a team gofer carts in sandwiches at lunchtime.

But sitting in the bunker also has a sent-to-your-room feel about it, an affront to the media's energetic sense of self-importance. That's why a couple of reporters couldn't help but bitch about Davis when a maintenance worker popped in and asked what they thought of the new head coach.

"He better win," said one reporter. "The way he's acting, he better win. I don't care who you are, if you make enemies with the media, you better win."

"Yup," another reporter said.

The first reporter, a fortyish man with the feathered hair of a Camaro owner, called Davis's 15-minute policy "just ridiculous." He said that Davis is no Tony Dungy, the Tampa Bay coach known for his niceness, and isn't even Chris Palmer, the fired Browns coach known for his 5-27 career record.

The maintenance man, eyebrows arched in surprise, mentioned that he had heard Davis is media-friendly. The reporter snorted. "He's about as media-friendly as a rattlesnake."

Moments later, the herd was freed from the bunker. As reporters watched the Browns run through two dozen plays, the shortened observation time didn't seem to matter -- nobody jotted notes about the on-field action. They bothered to flip open their notebooks only after they gathered around Davis for his post-practice press conference.

No one asked about the missing 15 minutes.