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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

Mazurek: NFL Preseason is still meaningful

As the leaves begin to change and the weather slowly turns cooler, the attention of the American sporting world shifts to the National Football League as the preseason wraps up.

For diehard fans, the preseason heralds the start of football festivities and many watch with interest, but for the general population the preseason is often overlooked. And as the NFL pushes for an 18-game season, the value of these preseason games comes under increased scrutiny from league officials and coaches alike. The league wants more regular season games to generate more revenue and to accomplish this, the players’ union will most likely push to either reduce or eliminate preseason games entirely.

And while replacing preseason games with regular season ones will certainly increase revenue, there are some, including this columnist, who feel getting rid of the preseason would be bad for the game overall.

Firstly, what makes preseason contests boring to some fans is the fact that the starters play for a very small portion of the game, often only a few series. This means the games themselves are not of the highest quality possible, but giving the backups extended playing time is quite important for teams throughout the course of the season.

The preseason gives teams the chance to test out rookies against NFL talent and this is vitally important. Some will argue game tape from college and training camp is enough to tell how rookies stack up, but the truth is no matter how much practice these rookies get in, there is simply no substitute for game experience. This is especially true for players like Marcus Mariota who come into the NFL not having run an NFL-style offense before. Again, Mariota can look great running an offense in practice or in a scrimmage, but when the lights come on, the coaches need to know what he can and cannot do in a game setting before the season starts.   

Additionally, the preseason raises the quality of the regular season. Better for rookies to commit their false starts and miss their blocking assignments when the games ultimately don’t matter.

And rookies aren’t the only ones who benefit from a few extra game time reps. Veterans coming off of a summer of lighter workouts or players arriving at a new team often need preseason games to get their body ready for the season and to learn their new team’s playbook.

And while the stars may not play much in these games, the preseason is where future stars are made. If not for these couple games to give undrafted free agents a chance to make the team, we wouldn’t know names like Victor Cruz, James Harrison, Tony Romo, Antonio Gates or Arian Foster. All of these current standouts came into the league as undrafted free agents and now, thanks in part to the opportunities afforded them by the preseason, they are household names for any football fan.

While I mention these stars to prove a point, competition to make an NFL rosters is not limited to them. The competition of preseason games is good for all fans of the NFL because it means that the best players will be playing on Sundays whether it be a Tony Romo or a third-string long snapper.

The major complaint about preseason games is always the added risk of injuries and this is of course true; the more games you play the more chances for you to get injured. Proponents of this viewpoint will undoubtedly point to the recent high profile injury to Jordy Nelson as an example of the harmful effects of preseason games. For Packers fans and those who already drafted Nelson in fantasy football, his injury is certainly a blow, it is important to bear in mind it's just as likely he would have been injured in a regular season game. High profile injuries such as Nelson’s give preseason naysayers ammunition, but the season will go on with or without Nelson and the Packers will probably still win a lot of games. Injuries happen yes, but they are more likely to happen in the regular season if there is no preseason to help get players ready. 

And to those who say the preseason isn't exciting, what else are you going to watch? Soccer?