As we head into the final week of the preseason and get ourselves for seventeen weeks of excitement, I find myself wondering if the preseason is really necessary. Unlike its other professional counterparts, the NFL requires alot of physicality and hard hits. Hockey may be a close second given the amount of contact throughout a game, but there is not another sport where a team's entire season hinges on the players' health and abiltity to get through four meaningless games unscathed. I will examine the impact the preseason has on the players, owners and fans as well as highlight the pros and cons of playing four games that don't mean a thing on the stat sheet, but could dictate the success or failures for a team throughout the course of the season.
We all know the players got their wish and had the two a days thrown out per the new CBA that was approved recently. Their logic makes sense to a degree. They don't want to chance injuring themselves while in practice and feel they would have a better longevity if they were subjected to lessercontact prior to the first preseason game. However, everyone in Panther Nation knows that isn't always the case. Let's go back to training camp 2009 where Maake Kemoeatu injured himself not even thirty minutes into the first practice. The end result was a revolving door at the defensive tackle position and we never really had a true run stopper up front throughout the season. So, if the players are concerned about their well being why not do the bulk of the work in practice where contact is controlled by the coaches and limit the preseason to two games? Let me add some icing onto the cake...even though the preseason is cut in half, there is no requirement to extend the regular season. Call me old fashioned but seventeen weeks seems fine to me. Now, that doesn't mean freak injuries can't happen even though the starters play two or three series and call it a night. Let us venture further back in Panther lore and to theinjury to Kerry Collins against the Denver Broncos. While Collins was able to come back, the Panthers were without their field general for the first three games of the season. Apparently, Bill Romanowski doesn't care if a game is meaningless or not, he just wants to hit someone and hit them hard.
Coaches are also concerned with the amount of injuries that can occur prior to the start of the regular season. For the Panthers, this has been more and more common with both offensive and defensive lines. Coaches need to decide how to overcome injuries AND instill the playbook with the backups on the depth chart or go out and get a proven veteran. Peyton Manning is the unquestioned quarterback in Indianapolis, however, their QB depth is very weak. So weak, that GM Bill Polian pulled Collins out of retirement to take the reigns of the team when the season starts if Manning isn't 100% recovered from his neck surgery. While this move has caused controversy with some Colts players, I can understand Polian's reasoning. Every team needs to make decisions that will make their team competitive. The preseason allows the coaches to see how their players match up against other teams and gauge their rookies in terms of readiness. So, perhaps to them it is vital to play four meaningless games in August.
Now, on to the owners and the biggest reason why there is a month of preseason games...revenue. Football brings people out and those people will pay a lot of money to see their favorite team play and their favorite players on the field for a limited time. Some, teams find most of their key starters hanging out on the sideline during the first two games as they heal from injuries. I will be the first to admit that I don't know how much is charged for preseason tickets but I understand they aren't cheap. The logical fan would question why spend so much to attend a game that doesn't mean a thing and by the second half becomes a 'Who's who of the depth chart'. Owners understand this and know fans will pay irregardless because they have been hungering for football since the previous season closed out and the April draft brought in new blood that will perhaps elevate the franchise. Therefore, it would have to take an act of God in order to get the preseason reduced without adding games to the regular season. Owners are shrewd individuals but sometimes that is what it takes to be successful.
Speaking of the fans, how does the preseason affect us? Well, for starters the injury news is enough to cause some of us to start chugging the Pepto or the Jack (pick your poison) prematurely. I won't lie. I am very concerned about the Panthers health and what it means to the regular season (more on that later). However, we LOVE football. We live, breathe and speak it. We drive our significant others crazy because of it. I love it so much I find myself not only watching pro and college football but Arena Football and the Canadiean Football League (which both are very entertaining by the way). Back on point, we are consumed by it and find ourselves buying the gear and marking down the big games for the upcoming season. I always look forward to the Panthers-Falcons games. That being said, we love that there are four games before the season starts but some fans feel that after two or three games the season needs to start.
In closing, is too much put on the line just before a season opens up? Are the players justified with wanting to cut back on contact not only in practice but in games as well? Are four games really necessary for what boils down to being an overglorified scrimmage? Are injuries put more under the microscope because the season hasn't started and there is a fear of the unknown? Going back to what I said before, I am following the injury problems with Carolina very closely. Jon Beason's injury doesn't concern me too much because I know how capable Dan Connor is at MLB. I am worried about the woes at the RG position and the DT position. I hope with the latter, the rookies Terrell McClain and Sione Fua) step up and justify their selections in the third round. Granted, the lockout has prevented the rookies and new acquisitions from getting many reps in practice. However, they have had the preseason to get snaps and make adjustments. Is it enough? How do you feel about the preseason CSR? Should it be shortened? Or is it just right? What adjustments would make it better for everyone (players, owners, coaches and fans)?