It’s time for the NFL to sack preseason football

* published first in The Daily Free Press

We have finally made it to the best time of year — football season. With the four weeks of meaningless preseason games finally behind us, the kickoff to the 2017 National Football League season rapidly approaches. On Thursday, we will see the defending Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough.

While both teams will be looking to repeat last year’s playoff success, each team will have to do so without offensive players who played an integral role in their success last season. The Patriots’ receiver Julian Edelman and the Chiefs’ running back Spencer Ware both suffered season ending knee injuries during the preseason.

The Patriots will also take the field without cornerback and returner Cyrus Jones after he suffered a torn ACL and a partially torn meniscus during the preseason finale.

These are not the only teams to be heavily impacted by injuries this preseason. The Chicago Bears and New York Jets both lost their top receivers, Cameron Meredith and Quincy Enunwa, for the season. Two Buffalo Bills quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, suffered concussions and the Pro Bowl receiver duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall are banged up from preseason action as well.

These injuries are terrible for everyone involved. The player will end up missing time in the league, which has no contract guarantees and a shaky history with dealing with player’s health and wellness. The team loses an asset to help them win.

The fans won’t get to see their favorite players on the field, and the quality of the play across the league is diminishing. Not to mention the fact that the games that do not count for anything can change the landscape of the season before the regular season even kicks off.

Before the preseason starts, everyone is glad to get football back into their lives. Just to see your team out on the field in any capacity excites you as a fan, but that excitement fades with every game, every play and every injury.

Week 1 features little to no playing time for the starters and who have even less time during Week 4. Week 3 sees the most action for starters, but the entire time they are on the field, fans are left holding their breath in fear of their favorite team’s best players getting hurt.

Now, yes, not all injuries happen during preseason games. Players like Ryan Tannehill or Teddy Bridgewater suffered injuries not during preseason games, but rather in practice. Despite this being the case, it is still time for the NFL to put an end to the four-week preseason.

If you’re skeptical about this, you probably should be. Even though not every injury happens in these games, the preseason is mostly made up by sloppy football from guys you have probably never heard of, but this is the primary way for those same guys to get on the field and show if they can play.

We have seen preseason success stories before like Dak Prescott and Victor Cruz, and there are bound to be more of them in the future. The thought of cutting down on time spent in the preseason might mean that teams will be sacrificing more time to hit on the next breakout star. But this change could be better for the league as a whole, not only for the players and their health but the product on the field as well.

By cutting down the preseason schedule by one week, the NFL could save football fans everywhere from watching practice squad players who most likely will not be on their team or any team after the 53 man roster cuts.

More importantly, there will be less potential time for injury during games that do not count. The NFL could also add another bye week during the season to both keep the same amount of weeks of the full season schedule and to give teams an extra rest week (which is needed to keep up with the league’s ridiculous international travel games and short weeks by having games on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and even sometimes Saturdays).

As someone who watches the majority of preseason games, I must somewhat come to the defense of the preseason. If you know what to watch for, preseason football can be pretty fun. From quarterback battles to throwing rookies into the fire of the next level creates storylines that make the preseason worth following.

It may not be as exciting in comparison to the regular season or college football, but the preseason serves a particular purpose. A purpose that should be consolidated down into two or three weeks, because too much of anything isn’t good for anyone — especially preseason football.

* published first in The Daily Free Press