The last week has been rough for several teams. The Panthers, Packers, and Steelers all lost valuable players to major injuries. Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL, and Jordy Nelson most likely did too. Maurkice Pouncey, the all-pro center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, suffered a devastating ankle injury that will require surgery. There have been plenty of other major injuries this pre-season, and the NFL is receiving a ton of heat because of it. While many have questioned the length of the pre-season in years past, many are speaking out now against it after comments made from one of the league's top QBs, Aaron Rodgers.
"This is a sport we're all going to be injured at some point," Rodgers said after the game. "It's a 100% injury rate for every player. You're going to deal with it. You just hate to see it in the preseason because it doesn't count for anything." He added, "It's difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game."
Understandably, Rodgers was upset because of the loss of his #1 receiver for likely the whole season. Green Bay has been one of the early Super-Bowl favorites, and while they have plenty of depth at receiver, replacing Jordy Nelson will not be an easy task. However, the question becomes, is the heat that the NFL is receiving over the pre-season justified?
Many fans feel that the preseason is meaningless, as Rodgers stated. The games do not count toward your record, they do not impact playoff seeding, division races, or anything really. There is no award for winning all your pre-season games. Because of that, the star players and key contributors on most teams really only play a handful of possessions during the pre-season. This is another major complaint by fans who would like to see it undergo a restructure.
The main complaint that is most common regarding the NFL preseason is the injuries. Would there be fewer injuries if the pre-season were shortened? Maybe, but the NFL has put more rules in place to limit contact in training camp practices. Not to mention, two of the major injuries that people are talking about this pre-season (Benjamin and Nelson) occurred on non-contact plays.
However, there are positives to the pre-season. It allows for teams to build chemistry together. It gives bubble players a chance at making the roster. If it weren't for pre-season competition, it is possible that guys like Victor Cruz, Antonio Gates, Wes Welker, Arian Foster, and more would not have made the final roster. It gives players on the fringe a chance to make a name for themselves.
But no conversation would be complete without talking about the financial part of it all, because that may play the biggest role of all in the debate about the pre-season. Most NFL season-ticket packages include pre-season games. So while a lot of pre-season games do not have strong attendance numbers, the NFL has already made the money they are looking for.
I think there are strong opinions on either side, and regardless, a change to the pre-season format isn't likely on the horizon. Changing the pre-season format will not be easy unless the players and coaches who want to see it changed can effectively relay that message to the owners and get them on board.
What do you think? Should the NFL re-format the pre-season to include two games? Should it stay the same? Be completely abolished?