There wasn’t any punishment by the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys withheld their starters last week. When can we stop pretending that the preseason matters?
It’s hard to remember a Dallas Cowboys offseason that didn’t involve an unfortunate and untimely accident or injury. This year, defensive end Tyrone Crawford was carted off the field due to a right ankle injury. In prior years, the Cowboys have lost running back Darren McFadden, linebacker Sean Lee and quarterbacks Kellen Moore and Tony Romo.
Many people will say that – accidents happen – but I’m in an industry that believes all accidents are preventable. Cowboy Nation can accept that injuries are part of the game as long as injuries happen during games in the regular season. The NFL should allow teams to do everything possible to avoid accidents and injuries during preseason.
My son has been participating in Pop Warner football since the age of 5. His team usually practices three times a week, but they don’t have a preseason. The local high school team doesn’t have a preseason either. Finally, our college teams doesn’t have a preseason. Wouldn’t preseason be more beneficial to players at the lower levels?
Using my son as an example, he could have 8 years of football experience under his belt when he reaches high school. Add another four years of high school and three years of football as a collegiate, that’s 15 years of football before he could become a professional athlete. At that point in his football life, he would get his first preseason. To prove what?
When running back Ezekiel Elliott was drafted 4th overall, was there any doubt that he could hold a football and run really fast toward the end zone while avoiding tacklers? What about starting veterans like wide receiver Dez Bryant who has played in 97 career games. Bryant has 462 career receptions and 67 receiving touchdowns.
Preseason doesn’t prove that he can catch. There’s our future Hall of Famer, 10 time pro bowler, tight end Jason Witten with 223 games and 11,888 receiving yards who shouldn’t even wear a uniform during preseason. Is there any doubt that these players will be ready on Week 1 of the regular season?
That’s why I was elated when Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians lead the way by stating that none of his starters will participate in the NFL’s Hall of Fame game. I was proud when our head coach Jason Garrett followed his lead and held out our starters. There wasn’t any punishment by the league for their decisions, so I hope the other 30 teams keep their starters off the field during preseason too.
If preseason consisted of players competing for roster spots, I’d be fine with that. For most veterans, the preseason games offer no reward, just risk of injury. Hopefully, the NFL and the NFL Players Union can agree to stop pretending that preseason matters.
With all the talk of player safety, the solution seems simple to me. Eliminate the preseason entirely. Extend the off-season by two weeks to give players time to recover from medical procedures and injuries. Use one week for additional conditioning drills and hamstring exercises. Start the season one week earlier an add an additional bye week. Until then, wake me up when the games count.