We’re only to Week 3 of the NFL’s exhibition season, but as it seems every year, a handful of players have been lost already with preseason injuries.
The biggest by far is Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, lost to a torn ACL. Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was also lost for the year during that game. The most frustrating thing about Jordy Nelson was that it was a non-contact injury. He might have been going harder than he would in practice, but he could have just as easily tore his ACL during a padless OTA session — like Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. Heck, even the Minnesota Vikings lost their right tackle Phil Loadholt just a couple plays into their opener with a torn achilles.
So, what’s the solution?
There are a number of things the league could do in order to appease the players. Commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to cut the preseason down to two games, but then that would leave an 18-game regular season. It would be the same amount of football, but during two of the games players might get hurt in an important situation instead of meaningless reps.
They could cut the preseason out all together and teams could hold joint practices together instead. Still, the risk of injuries is always there. Jamies Wintson could roll his ankle in a joint practice just as he did last Monday night.
The thing that concerns the players is lining up against an opponent instead of your own teammates, and they’re right, meaningless pain gets distributed. Realistically there aren’t a whole lot of options. One of the better ideas might be just to keep players who don’t need the reps out. Adrian Peterson hasn’t played in the preseason since 2011. Brady sits a portion of the games every year.
Preseason does have a purpose. Coaches need to see something similar to real action to get a grasp on their team. Quarterbacks and their receivers need to get on the same page. Players need to get more familiar with the offense or the defense. Newly signed tight end Julius Thomas fractured his hand on his first play with the Jaguars. Even though he was a huge investment and free agent splash, he had to be out there in order to be comfortable with second-year quarterback Blake Bortles and the offense.
These games are evil but they are necessary too in a sense. A two-game preseason would lessen the damage, but no one seems to want the 18-game regular season it would come with. Hosting joint practices has negatives and positives, but it’s hard to replicate a real game.
My opinion? If someone is irreplaceable they should sit. The fans may gripe and complain, but that frustration pales in comparison to what would happen if an integral part of the team was lost for the season.