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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Is the NFL Preseason Really Necessary?

Before the 2018 NFL preseason began, seven players were already placed on their team’s injured reserve with torn ACLs. Now, in just over two weeks of preseason action, there have been 41 reported injuries, including 3 players out for the year with torn ACLs.

It is clear that injuries are inevitable in football; they pile up in games, practices, training camp, and even off-season workouts. So shouldn’t the NFL do whatever they can to keep players healthy?

Redskins fans realize how devastating preseason injuries can be. Derrius Guice, the prized rookie running back everyone was itching to watch, went down with a torn ACL not even a quarter into his first preseason game. His highly anticipated rookie season was over before it even began.

In recent years we’ve seen big name players like Jordy Nelson, Julian Edelman, and Tony Romo go down with season ending injuries playing insignificant football. While injuries can and will still happen in a preseason with only two games, they will be much less likely to occur.

Having star NFL players healthy going into the season would benefit the NFL as an organization as well. It would make fans much more eager to watch each game especially come week one.

The continued damage to players bodies has been bad for football, to say the least. Young kids are playing less football and moving onto other sports, players are retiring early, and CTE is running rampant and ruining the lives of former NFL stars. If the league wants to survive and not change how the game is played, cutting out preseason games is the best option. As ridiculous as it sounds, NFL teams view their players like cars: they’re depreciating assets. Every preseason hit and rep players undertake puts wear and tear on their bodies.

“You don’t need four games, players don’t look forward to playing four games, and there is a lot of risk. Football players don’t have guaranteed contracts. Teams want them to go out there and risk everything.” – EMG Sports founder Ed Wasielewski

Proponents of the NFL preseason claim that the preseason is good because it makes players tougher and gives those fighting for a roster spot the chance to make their case. However, with OTA’s, training camp, game film, and minicamps, these players already have enough time to prove their worth to teams who have already scouted them. It’s a myth that coaches need the preseason to gauge the depth of their team with all of the film and advanced analytics in the modern era of the NFL. Teams know who players are, and they do their homework before bringing players in.

The modern analytics in the NFL have led the preseason to lack importance, as coaches have already decided a majority of their roster. According to Mike Freeman, “By the time preseason games roll around, coaches know what 90 to 95 percent of the roster is going to look like. There is very little the games themselves do to determine roster outcomes. Oh, sure, coaches will publicly dispute this, but privately, many do not.”

The ugly truth behind why the NFL preseason is still an annual dilemma is not because players and coaches need extra playing time, but because preseason games are money makers for franchise owners. Jason Cole, a Hall of Fame voter and writer for Bleacher Report, explains the purpose of preseason: “the games are just programming, because TV networks need a certain amount of show slots and for whatever reason people watch preseason games.”

If the four game NFL preseason continues to exist, don’t be surprised to see your favorite player, hyped up rookies, franchise quarterbacks, or fantasy football studs out for the season before it even begins. The NFL must cut preseason games in order to retain the interest of fans, protect players, and promote health and well-being in the world of sports.

– Greg and Sean

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