Preseason can be a real bummer, and not just because the games are meaningless and everything is vanilla. Not even just because of the hot takes and the way-too-early predictions. It's because of the injuries. Most of you are aware of the injury sustained by Tony Romo or Ravens tight end Ben Watson who tore his Achilles on the first play of the game against the Lions last week.
The sad thing is this, Watson is a guy who has only missed one game in the last four years. Then he has his 13th season ruined on a meaningless play in a meaningless game. At 35 years old, this could be the injury that ends his career, meaning he won't get to decide when his career ends or have a chance to experience the joy of his final game. You can argue that Tony Romo could be going through something similar, although he's probably stubborn enough to keep trying to play.
So why continue the preseason this way anymore? The obvious reason is money. Despite the jokes about how the games meaning nothing, people still show up in large numbers to go see them. Those fans tend to bring money with them. They buy tickets, concessions, apparel and who knows what else? This equates to millions of dollars. There are not many millionaires owners that would willingly turn down more millions, not to mention the NFL also makes a pretty penny.
But what if there was a way for the NFL and team owners to still get their money, key players to remain healthy and fans to get more excitement than they're used to in August? That's what I would like to propose today. I have two ideas the NFL can use to fix the issues and make everyone happy. Here they are.
Every year there are around 250 players selected in the NFL Draft. For all other college graduates chasing the NFL dream, there is a shot to make it in camp as a UDFA, followed by bouncing around practice squads, heading to Canada or chasing a new dream altogether. These players could easily find themselves work in the National Developmental Football League.
They won't be alone though. The NFL can also send the last three rounds of players along for the ride. This gives the late-round players and the UDFA's a chance to learn how to be a pro and shine in a pro league. But there is so much more to it than that.
The NDFL is a place where players could learn their team's playbook and get their film out in the open. This gives guys that normally wouldn't have made the team an extraordinary second chance to show their team what they can do. When they're ready, or their respective team is dealing with injuries, they can be called up to the main roster.
What does the NFL get out of this? They get another chance to rule a different day of the week. They could have another league at their disposal that can be televised on NFL Network on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Or they can have the league's TV rights purchased by another channel like ESPN.
With as many people out there that love football, there will be tons of eyes on a new product that features players that are, more than ever, playing their hearts out to make their dream of making an NFL team a reality. Best of all, with an entire league devoted to development, there would be no need for the preseason, meaning no star players like Tony Romo get hurt before the season even starts. This brings me to the next idea.
Simply don't play established players
If you must, you can have your preseason. But if you know Tony Romo is a good player, don't play him. What was Ben Watson suppose to prove to the Ravens that he hadn't already proved in his 13-year NFL career? He was already listed as their starting tight end. Just sit him.
Despite that, there will be some veterans that will argue that these games are needed to shake the rust off and get back into the habit of playing on a regular basis. But judging by the amount of players that have spoken out in the past about playing too many games as it is, I'm sure there are many that would enjoy four games off in preparation for the games that truly matter.
Aaron Rodgers is one of them. In an interview with CBS last year, Rodgers called preseason games "meaningless." Adding, "I think a lot of players around the league do want to eliminate it." If such a high profile player who has suffered injuries before thinks it should go away, that's a pretty good sign that players look at these games in a bad light.
Between camp and preseason, these guys have already risked their health more than they need to. Just look at Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The third-year QB was slated to have a big year, but now faces big questions about his future after a live practice gone awry. Why not just have valuable players not take the risk? Why continue to run live game practices and play in the preseason? Just sit out.
Then you can treat all preseason games like the league currently uses the final preseason game: purely to develop young players while keeping the talented veterans safely on the sidelines. That is, after all, the point of the preseason: to develop young players and see who can make the team.
But sadly it's all just an idea. The likelihood of more popular and important players getting hurt is a strong and tough reality to face. But I would still like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you think either of these ideas are something you could get behind? Or do you enjoy the preseason the way it is?