Year after year as the NFL season approaches, we are reminded that the game of football is a dangerous sport. Injuries occur on a regular basis during the season but a team’s worst nightmare is when a key player suffers a serious injury during the preseason.
In 2019, we have already seen injuries to key players such as quarterback Cam Newton, Equinamious St. Brown, Jarrad Davis, Rashan Gary and Tre’Davious White. Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller went down with a torn ACL that will cause him to miss all of 2019. Isaiah Wynn and Marqise Lee were both key players that went down with serious injuries in 2018.
Not to mention, the likes of Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill, Jordy Nelson and Michael Vick are some of the most significant stars to get injured in a preseason game in the past 20 years.
Injuries are inevitable in football yes, but why should key players be asked to play in a meaningless preseason game?
As the injury concern continues to grow, more and more teams will begin taking new approaches to the preseason. Take the Chicago Bears for example. Head coach Matt Nagy has yet to play his starting offense, including quarterback Mitch Trubisky this preseason.
Nagy used a similar strategy last preseason when he rested Trubisky and the starting offense in week three of the preseason, which most NFL teams use as a dress rehearsal game.
Nonetheless, Trubisky is just one of many quarterbacks who have yet to throw a pass this offseason. Players like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger have yet to see any action this preseason and that trend could continue to gain popularity among key players across the league.
On any given franchise, quarterbacks are among one of the most important positions. NFL quarterbacks tend to run the ball more often than ever before which means their body already takes a pounding during the regular season.
With agile quarterbacks like Newton, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and others, it does not make sense for these players to play in preseason games with their style of play. A single scramble from a collapsing pocket in a preseason game could potentially affect their entire season. Take Newton’s injury against the New England Patriots for example.
Running backs also play a big part in a team’s offense and they also happen to take the most beating of any player. Any chance you can avoid your star running back getting hit the better and after Miller’s season-ending injury, we may see that approach pick up popularity soon.
I believe that in a few years, more and more coaches will rest their starters the entire preseason which will cause games to become more and more meaningless. The preseason has already decreased in popularity among coaches and players. Early reports say that shortening or eliminating the preseason as a whole will be pushed for at the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Preseason games are not completely useless at the moment. They do provide an opportunity for the third and fourth string players to display their talents in pursuit of a spot on a team’s 53-man roster.
However, there are more effective options. After two joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers stated during his press conference, “I’ve gotten more work in these last two days than I have in my last 10 preseason games.”
Joint practices have become an increasingly popular strategy NFL teams like to use in order to give a game-like feel at practices. Because it is practice, it is a controlled environment and major injuries can be prevented. Yet at the same time, key starters can go against opponents rather than their own teammates which helps both sides grow.
It may not happen all at once but with these factors going against the NFL’s current preseason format, we may see a drastic change to the preseason as we know it.