I may be in the minority, but I actually like preseason being four games. It allows ample opportunities for playing time for guys who are fighting for a roster spot. What I am not a fan of, however, are players who are locked to make the roster and start playing in these exhibition games.
Every year, a significant player gets hurt playing in a game that is absolutely meaningless. Julian Edelman is the big name this year, and Spencer Ware will be out for a few weeks also, but other players to suffer a significant injury during the preseason in recent years include Jordy Nelson and Tony Romo. There’s also been near misses, such as Odell Beckham Jr.’s ankle sprain after being tackled low in a game against the Browns.
Yes, preseason games can provide these players with a bit of a warm up before the regular season begins, but players have amble opportunities to do so all throughout training camp. Teams have individual practices and scrimmage multiple teams throughout August. While the “atmosphere” may be difference, no veteran player needs to get acclimated to a football crowd and a half empty stadium during preseason isn’t going to make a significant difference.
The following should be the only players who participate in a preseason game: players battling each other for a starting role, rookies and players whose roster status isn’t guaranteed. Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere, so why expose him to injury in August?
Another group of players who shouldn’t see a snap of preseason action are the players whose fifth-year option was picked up. Those contracts have an injury guarantee, which means that if the player is injured and can’t pass a physical the following year, the team is on the hook for the full salary. It’s one thing if the team exercises the option and the player gets hurt in September or October, it’s another when the injury occurs when the game doesn’t count.
All 32 teams carry 90-man rosters in August. Refusing to play your starters in the preseason allows more chances for the remaining camp bodies to get a decent chance of exposure before the rosters are reduced to 53.
At the end of the day, the risk of playing a starter in theses games comes with such little reward. Wrap up your key players in bubble wrap and don’t open until Week 1.