Should the NFL scrap preseason football as injuries mount?


Football is a violent sport. Every time a player graces the field, they roll the dice. In one sickening thud, an entire season can be wiped out. Serious injuries are mounting around the National Football League, and the regular season games haven’t even kicked off.

For four weeks in August, hundreds of men put their bodies on the line in a game Aaron Rodgers described perfectly: meaningless. In the space of just a few days, the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin lost his season to a torn ACL and was followed by the Packers’ Jordy Nelson. Two of the league’s premier receivers out, just like that. The injuries are piling up in New York, too.

Of course, a serious injury can happen in the regular season, preseason, in practice or even when celebrating a sack, as Stephen Tulloch found out last year. But in the era of player safety, should the NFL remove the preseason, or at the very least reduce its length?

Clearly deflated after Nelson’s horrific injury in Pittsburgh, Rodgers expressed his feelings about preseason.

“I think a lot of players around the league probably do [want to eliminate it],” Rodgers said. “At least cut it down maybe, to a couple.”

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford spoke on the issue, too. Stafford can see the need for preseason games, but feels there must be a solution to avoid putting players at risk in games that don’t impact the standings.

“Do we need four games to get ready?” Stafford said in a news conference. “I don’t know, maybe not.”

“I think the longer the preseason is, I think it’s more for coaches. I guess maybe just trying to figure who they want to keep on the team, that kind of stuff. But, there’s probably a better solution out there. I’m not sure what it is.”

So what’s the solution?

Cut the preseason to three games, even two? Sure, that reduces the amount of time players can get injured in, but it won’t completely resolve the issue. Hey, we’re only two games in and the amount of injuries league-wide is already frightening. But what if the NFL completely removes the preseason?

The quality of September football in recent years has almost been like a preseason encore. The Seahawks started 2014 3-3, the Packers 1-2 and the Patriots 2-2. All three teams would make their respective championship games, and two played in the Super Bowl.

Remove preseason games and teams will potentially enter the season underprepared without enough reps. Receivers need to build rhythm and chemistry with their quarterback, as does the offensive line. Defenders need warm into the season so they can hit their stride in September. By taking away these games, the risk of losing quality in the games that matter would increase.

And there’s the case of the young players. With no preseason games to impress the coaches, how do the undrafted guys make an impact? Chiefs’ defensive end Mike DeVito earned his opportunity in these exhibition games and believes they are important, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.

"“I got there, I think it was in April, and I remember we went home for nine days in the summer,” DeVito said. “[Offseason practices] were 12-hour days. You had two practices a day in training camp for six weeks. You had all those reps in preseason. That was the reason I made the team. If I didn’t have all those opportunities I wouldn’t have made it. I wasn’t good enough.”"

So what is the solution? The coaches are constantly trying to strike the balance between giving the starters enough reps to prepare for the season while also not putting them at too much risk. I’m sure Packers head coach Mike McCarthy would rather Jordy Nelson was shaking off rust in September than rehabbing a torn ACL.

Each year it seems a key player is lost in a preseason game. The Jets lost Mark Sanchez to a season-ending shoulder injury two years ago; Sam Bradford tore his ACL in a meaningless contest 12 months ago.

Injuries can strike at any time, but should the NFL reduce the preseason to reduce these August season-shifters?

What are your thoughts?

More from Blogging Dirty