The NFL is covered more closely, by more people, than it ever has before. And it's not just that there's more reporters hovering around your typical training camp practice, either: every fan is essentially a reporter now, because every fan has a smart phone and a Twitter account, constantly at the ready to record a bad-looking play and send it to the masses.
This creates a negative feedback loop. The play goes viral, fans who weren't there and have no clue the context to the play get in the player's mentions, and all of a sudden the player is getting ripped for something that happened in practice. Lest we forget what the great Allen Iverson had to say about practice.
New San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman became the latest victim of this new ecosystem on Wednesday when he was burned on a go route by Niners wideout Marquise Goodwin.
A bad play for Sherman, right?
Afterward, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that play by Sherman is an example to the rest of the team of the right thing to do in training camp.
The Dictionary.com definition of practice is:
Repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring a skill or proficiency.
It's the time to experiment, to figure out what works and what doesn't, and to fail.
The alternative, as Shanahan said, is that players work on only what they're already good at, they don't get better, and then the fail on game day.