We’re now three weeks into training camp, four weeks for a couple of teams and we’ve now got at least one “preseason” game behind us. Hard to believe that it’ll be three more weeks of games and practices before anything happens that really counts in the standings.
Already, things have happened that matter though. Clinton Portis has a separated shoulder and is out for the rest of the exhibition season and might miss the Redskins’ opener. Rookie linebacker Chad Greenway injured his knee in his first action ever in a Vikings uniform Monday night and won’t play again until next year.
Every team will have some kind of injury in these glorified practices that will impact their season, one way or another. Some players getting injured give other players a chance to play; other player’s injuries dash the hopes of an entire season.
True, LeCharles Bentley’s injury happened on the first day of training camp in a non-contact drill, so injuries are a part of training camp. But even the players will tell you, the intensity picks up a little bit when you’re playing against guys in different uniforms and bad things can happen when you don’t expect it, especially in an exhibition game. (The NFL wants to call them preseason in order to give some gravity to the games instead of calling them exhibition games or what they actually are, a glorified practice.)
There is talk each year of changing it to three or two games before the real ones start, but the problem is money. You might have heard John Madden say the other night that he coached in the era of twelve regular season games and six preseason games. “You’d be in camp for two months,” Madden noted.
That only came to an end with the rise of the Players Union.
You might not know that NFL players only get paid during the regular season. They get one/seventeenth of their salary spread out over 17 weeks of the regular season. Before that they get a stipend, not much, to carry them through camp. In camp, they’re housed and fed, but not paid.
So the question is, can you eliminate two preseason games outright? The answer is, of course, no.
The teams in the NFL include the preseason games in the season ticket package, charging full price, and it’s a big moneymaker. How about dropping the number of preseason games to two and just adding two regular season games? You could do that, but then you’d have to figure out how to increase the players’ salaries by 1/8th (the equivalent of adding two games that count.)
Would the owners be willing to do that? Probably not.
So until the Players Union and the league can work out something that makes money or doesn’t cost money for both sides, We’ll have 16 regular season games and 4 “preseason” games. All with the possibility that a team and a town’s hopes, could be finished before any snap that counts.