There is No Easy Answer in Curbing Preseason Injuries

Bills' first-round pick E.J. Manuel is among several players out for the rest of the preseason.

Every year at this time the pundits, experts and fans start to contemplate the rash of injuries in the National Football League’s preseason. Each year we go through this same process as players are lost to sever knee injuries or torn muscles that end seasons. The reaction is always the same… “The preseason is to long! There are too many preseason games! Stop the madness!!”

What would be an ample and agreeable resolution to this problem? There isn’t one which is why we go through this every single season.

Football, as you know, is a contact sport. That’s not entirely accurate though. Basketball is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport and people get hurt. Players may even get hurt when they aren’t even touched. This happens in all sports yet because football is under the microscope, it gets the most attention.

If we pulled together the smartest minds in professional football to solve the issue they would tell us themselves there is no solution. Still, I’ll humor you with what might be laid on the table.

1. Reduce the number of preseason games from four to two. Common sense tells us that of course injuries will be lesser in number due to a decrease in the number of games but this won’t fly for a couple of reasons. First, teams will tell the preseason gate money isn’t that big of a deal and I’d tell you there is oceanfront property in Arizona to but as well.

Secondly, coaches will tell you they need game situations to properly evaluate new talent whether it is rookies or free agents. That’s the approach of most coaches. Some will even tell you they need the veterans on the game field as well in order to properly prepare for the season.

Would reducing the length of training camp help reduce injuries?

2. Reduce the preseason altogether. Camps started this year in the fourth week of July for a regular season that gets underway on September fifth. I can easily buy the argument that it is just too much time prior to the regular season starting but coaches wouldn’t and here’s why. Because of the most recent agreements between the NFL and the NFLPA, the amount of actual practice time on the field has been significantly reduced. Therefore coaches have been forced to do more teaching inside a classroom. This already decreases injuries.

3. Adopt practice-like practices for preseason games. I felt dirty just writing that but if the league is already moving in the direction of killing big hits and violence then why not do it altogether? I suggest putting ‘red jersey’ on not just quarterbacks, but wide receivers and tight ends as well. Play of the game would be normal across the board except that when these players have the ball it becomes a simple touch for the tackle.

I hate the wussification of the game more than anyone, but if the NFL is going to continue with these lengthy training camps and preseason schedules consisting of four games AND wants to eliminate injuries then something like this might have to be an option.

These three things are ideas and nothing more and I don’t expect them to become fruition anytime soon. We must also go back to my most original point which is that this season’s rash of injuries really isn’t anymore significant than past seasons. It just feels this way because the media is paying their usual overblown attention to them.

Later this week, I plan to address the injuries themselves and the fact that making the game ‘safer’ may actually be the cause of the season-ending injuries.