As Arian Foster, Jordy Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey and other stars fall before their eyes, NFL owners realize the folly of a four-game preseason.
They don’t need that many dress rehearsals.
Except the rehearsals attract almost as big a crowd as the real thing. And I’m not one to say the public is getting shafted. Let’s face it, the quality of football skills shown in the worst NFL exhibition games is higher than in the College Football Playoff.
Still, the product is much inferior to regular-season football, with the final rosters trimmed to the best of the pros. Certainly there are many more billions to be made if we had 18 regular-season games instead of 16.
If only we could turn two of those exhibition games into regular-season.
But the players’ union, even one as weak as the NFL’s, objects to increasing the burden on the players’ bodies. Veteran stars such as J.J. Watt can take the preseason off but would tear off your limbs if you tried to prevent them from playing in a game that counts.
So what if we had an 18-game regular season but with a stipulation that no player could play in more than 16 games?
With this system – Call it Planned Leave – players would be more refreshed. It would be up to the teams – presumably the head coaches – to strategize so they would have their star players at maximum fitness for the most important games.
This system would make most of the games more competitive. Bill Belichick would rest Tom Brady against Cleveland, which of course would infuriate Cleveland and create a closely and hotly played contest.
By limiting every player to a maximum of 16 games, you do not totally disrespect the history of the sport, the sanctity of records built on 16-game schedules.
A two-game preseason is perfect, one home and one away.
That would give the veterans time enough to mesh with their teammates, while allowing enough time for scouts and coaches to evaluate young players going against the veterans. Preseason training camp does not need to do anything else.
Reducing the preseason by half will reduce the opportunity for injury while providing more of the highest-quality football.
I realize this proposal does increase the physical demands on the players, but perhaps they could be compensated with more guaranteed salary. A reduced preseason means reduced pain for players. And for viewers.