Every NFL Preseason, talented players lose their entire regular season over some meaningless Preseason minutes. In 2015, it was Jordy Nelson with an ACL. 2003 took away Michael Vick with a broken leg. This year, two young starters have already been declared out for the year with knee injuries: Chiefs running back Spencer Ware and Bears receiver Cameron Meredith.
The Preseason can provide under-the-radar players a chance to shine and make the roster. However, it is extremely risky and detrimental to teams. Teams feel obligated to play their starters in at least one game, and one meaningless game is all some players need to have a career or season-altering injury.
Fear of injury can prevent teams from truly seeing the talent they have as well. Legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh once spoke out against Preseason action, condemning the environment the exhibition games create.
“There’s only one rationale for playing football games before the season begins. That’s to prepare the players for the coach’s schemes and to show the coaches what new players can do in those schemes. But you really don’t do that. You’re so afraid of your most valuable players being injured that you end up shuffling them in and out of the lineup as fast as you can. So, often you end up starting the season as ignorant about new players, formations, and plays as you were the first day of training camp.”
The three time Super Bowl winning coach is correct in his assessment of Preseason. This is further proven by teams’ Preseason vs. regular season records. The 2008 Lions who went 0-16 in regular season play, went 4-0 in the Preseason. Coaches can see the talent of players in scrimmages and 7-on-7’s. Preseason games are not necessary for the best coaches in the world to recognize talent.
Tickets for the Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions Preseason game on August 31st start at $12 each. This is a game where the majority of the starters will not even see the field. That price may not seem like a lot, but it adds up. Especially when the front row seats are upwards of $75 a piece. That is an extremely profitable venture for the NFL when you include TV contracts as well.
In 2015, the Patriots released the ratings of their first Preseason game. Bleacher Report reported that more people in the Boston area watched the game than they did the Republican primary debates, the Stanley Cup or the NBA Finals. The National Football league is too savvy a business to reject those ratings in order to protect players. Ethically, they should.
The NFL has repeatedly said it cares about their players’ safety. If safety was the number one priority, meaningless August games would be cancelled. Players subsequently would have a better chance to play in the games that matter.
Owners have always and will always care about MONEY first. Money is the reason the Preseason continues, even after claimed many players to injuries over the years, and the reason it will continue to. For as long as people are willing to pay decent money for meaningless football, the NFL will continue to produce said meaningless football.