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NFL AM: The NFL Needs to Keep Preseason, Just Not In It’s Current Form

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Smallest Bang For The Buck

The NFL Preseason signals the return of “real football,” even though we have to wade through four exhibition games to get there.  Preseason is a good thing for the viewer, but it’s turned into something close to a complete waste of time and money for the ticket purchasing public.

Preseason tickets cost the same as regular season tickets, and the product is roughly 10-15 percent of what you would receive in the regular season.  To get to that 10-15 percent figure, I’ve taken the rough amount of snaps from expected starters, subtracted the starters who skip the games completely due to a hangnail and the utter disregard for the final outcome.

Perhaps 10-15 percent is being generous?

Should a normally, regular season priced $100 ticket then cost between $10-$15?  No, it’s still an evening of entertainment and you get to experience the game day aspect.  It should cost more than going out to a movie.

For years NFL teams have explained away their preseason pricing as the total cost of the season ticket being “a package.”  It’s understandable, but as long as the ticket still reads the same dollar value as the regular season games, the perception of fans getting the short, sharp end of the stick will be a reality.

The 2016 NFL preseason has seemingly reached new depths.  There are as many penalty flags as ever which has made the games nearly unwatchable both in person and as a television viewer.

On top of that we’re not even seeing the star players for that token quarter or so.  In Week 2, which was historically set for starters to play roughly a half and sometimes into the third quarter, we missed out on quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins.  Now Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Brady and Rivers are proven veterans who have very little to gain and a lot to lose by playing in these meaningless exhibitions.  But Bridgewater and Cousins?  No full-time starter at the quarterback position threw for fewer touchdown passes than Bridgewater last season (14) and it’s tough to make the argument that he couldn’t use some more seasoning.  The Redskins thought so much of Cousins’ break out season last year that they didn’t tender him a reasonable long-term contract offer and were basically forced to franchise him.  He can probably use a couple of reps.

“I don’t remember seeing this many healthy QB scratches for the 2nd Pre Season Game,” former Texans and Redskins general manager Charley Casserly wrote on social media. “Is this a start of a trend?”

Why does the NFL even have preseason games?

Coaches and talent evaluators will make the case that it’s to find the “diamonds in the rough” and help evaluate the roster.  That makes a certain amount of sense, but on most teams there are only a handful of actual roster spots open for competition, regardless of what the coaches say.

Perhaps the biggest reason why these exhibitions exist is because it’s a nice revenue stream for the league.  It has been proven each and every year through television ratings that if the NFL is going to produce something, we as the public are going to consume it.  Players get a small stipend for preseason football and not their actual salaries.  It’s a low overhead way for teams to make additional millions of dollars.

Meaningless exhibitions have been trending more inconsequential as the years progress and it’s either time for the league to cut back to two contests or do something about the ticket prices, even if they just “hide it” by raising the prices of the regular season product.  Of course that kills the secondary market which the league probably has a hand in as well.

It has been put on the table by the NFL that they will reduce the preseason slate to just a pair of games if the players would agree on extending the regular season to 18 games.  As a football fan, I’m all for it.  If I were a player, I’d probably feel differently.

There is a compromise that can be made here and it likely involves money and prorating the contracts of the players to reflect the additional work.  That would make the fans happy, the owners more money and it will put more in the players pockets.  It’s time to get that done.

More Line Injuries For The Patriots

We reported on the injury to New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis yesterday that will likely cause him to miss at least half of the season.  The news became worse for the defending AFC East champs on Monday as a Boston Globe report states that the team will likely be without guard Shaq Mason as well as offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, possibly for the season.

Mason, the second-year guard reportedly suffered a broken hand, likely when he was filling in as the starting right guard.  Although there’s no immediate timetable for his return, he is expected to be back at some point during the season.  Realistically an interior lineman can play with a cast, but without the ability to grab defensive linemen, he will be a liability in pass protection at the very least.

As for Vollmer, NFL Media is reporting that he has an issue with his hip and could be placed on injured reserve.  Although he missed only two games last season, he was plagued with an ankle issue.

Since teams can only put one player on the IR-DTR (Injured Reserve- Designated to Return) list, New England has to decide which one of the three they will add to the list.  If Vollmer’s injury is bad enough, they could place him on season-ending injured reserve.

This will certainly make life more difficult for fill-in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who will face what should be fierce pass rushes during the first four weeks of the season.  The Patriots open up the season against Chander Jones (looking for a pound of flesh), Calais Campbell and the Arizona Cardinals, then return home for dates against the Miami Dolphins with Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh; the Houston Texans who may have J.J. Watt available and should have Vince Wilfork, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney.  Finally they play the Buffalo Bills, led by the Ryan family (Rex and Rob).

New England has been in similar positions before, and somehow, someway they still find ways to win football games.  This will certainly be a challenge to repeat that feat.

 

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.