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John Harbaugh publicly calls for preseason reform after Benjamin Watson injury

The preseason has taken many high-profile players down over the years, and the latest season-ending injury before the real deal even began has hit the Ravens close to home.

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Coming from a team hit so hard by injuries last season, it was really hard to see some of the Ravens own be carted off the field in preseason action, playing in a tuneup game that's pretty meaningless in the scope of things.

Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, who was one of the team's better offseason signings, went down with a torn Achilles on the first offensive play of the game for Baltimore. Unfortunately for Watson and the Ravens, he likely won't see the field this season. Running back Kenneth Dixon was also carted off with what is believed to be a sprained left knee. MRI results will be more telling, but Coach Harbaugh believes the injury isn't major in nature. The former injury however, is a big blow for the Ravens, as they had a leader and a good player in Watson. More importantly, he was also a bastion of health, missing only one game over the past four seasons. Meanwhile, fellow tight ends Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams haven't exactly had clean bills of health thus far this season.

Following the team's 30-9 win against the Detroit Lions, the coach had some strong words regarding reforming the preseason.

"It's not the '70s anymore," Harbaugh said after the Ravens' 30-9 win over the Detroit Lions. "These guys playing in these games -- it's tough -- and they're not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails.

"I'm really hopeful that the union and the league can get together and do something that's good for everybody -- especially what's good for the players and for the fans."

Harbaugh maintains that he's had this stance for a long time, and that it's not an emotional response to losing the veteran tight end for the season.

"If you go more games, fewer preseason games and bigger rosters, that's good for everybody," Harbaugh said. "To me, that's something that they can put their heads together and work out. It would be a positive."

If Coach was calling the shots for the league, there wouldn't be such a thing as the preseason. Rather than play games in front of empty stadiums for no significant reason, Harbaugh believes that interteam scrimmages might be a worthy replacement to the controversial preseason.

"If I had my choice, I'd go none. That might be an extreme point, but we could run scrimmages, or we could run practices against other teams and figure it out. We'd all be in the same boat. That's for people higher up than me to decide."

While the main point of the preseason is conditioning and honing plays for the year, two things that can easily be achieved in practices, proponents of the preseason argue that the in-game experience that preseason games provide is invaluable to young players and new coordinators who are trying to install their schemes.

The players in particular are a fan of the warmup period that the preseason provides, and Terrell Suggs is no exception.

"Anytime you line up on a football field and risk getting hurt, it's out there," Suggs said. "Truth be told, we need some of these games ... just maybe not four ... maybe three, maybe two. But we do need some of them, but other than that, people getting hurt, it's very unfortunate, but we know it's part of the game."

It's a shame that Watson and several others ended their year before it even began, but it seems as if the preseason might be a necessary evil. It pads the pockets of owners, generates hype, and helps coaches assess their squads before the season begins.