It’s official: Packers top receiver Jordy Nelson will miss the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL suffered on the sixth play in Sunday’s preseason game. Injuries, by and large, are freak things, and there’s no way to absolutely prevent them. But their volume could be reduced so simply: give them fewer games in which to occur. And what do you know? There are a handful of games that could be eliminated, and some players are wondering whether we need the preseason at all.
Aaron Rodgers made the strongest statements yet against the preseason in his postgame comments following Nelson’s injury. He said it’s one thing to lose a valuable teammate, and another thing altogether to lose him in “a meaningless game.” Rodgers said that he believes most players around the league would support trimming the preseason to two games or fewer, and then went even further, declaring that he and his offensive starters would be just as ready for Week 1 if they played just a single preseason snap.
A partial transcript:
Rodgers found some support from Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who gave his support to a shortened preseason, though admitted he doesn’t have a specific plan.
One man who likes things just as they are is Detroit safety Glover Quin (and if we’re going to note that Rodgers may be especially passionate about this because he lost his favorite target, Quin now gets to avoid one of his division’s best receivers). Quin says shortening the preseason wouldn’t have mattered for Nelson.
“I hated Jordy got hurt, but in my beliefs, and the way I believe, it was — God meant for Jordy to get hurt,” said Quin, a devoted Christian. “So if he wouldn’t have got hurt today, if he wouldn’t have played in that game, if he wouldn’t have practiced anymore, and the next time he walked on the field would have been opening day, I feel like he would have got hurt opening day.”
Intuitively, it makes sense: if a player is going to get hurt in his first, or his third game action, wouldn’t that just happen in the regular season now? And for those injuries that are direct consequences of players not quite being in game shape yet, some of them would still occur. But the vast majority of injuries are just functions of playing football, and players are playing the odds every time they suit up. Reducing the number of chances for them to suffer significant injuries means there would be less—it’s that simple. Divine providence notwithstanding.
The frustrating part is that the NFL doesn’t particularly love the preseason—multiple times over the last few years, the league office has floated the idea of shortening it. During CBA negotiations, there was mention of halving the preseason and moving to an 18-game schedule. Two years ago, the league considered expanding the playoffs and reducing the preseason by a game. Just last week, Packers president Mark Murphy—a member of the NFL’s competition committee, said there have been renewed discussions of cutting the preseason. The problem, Murphy noted, is that owners don’t want to lose the revenue of a full game, since they charge full prices for preseason.
A shortened preseason feels inevitable, but it won’t happen as a mercy to players. It’ll come as a trade with the schedule picking up more meaningful games, be they regular season or postseason. It’s a wonder it hasn’t happened yet, with the increased money the league stands to gain from a TV contract that would boast either two additional weeks or two additional postseason games. That money would be shared with the players, salving any qualms about not actually reducing injuries. But, as Aaron Rodgers implied, injuries suffered in meaningful games somehow don’t hurt as badly, or feel as senseless.
In the meantime, top players are going to continue to go down, avoidably. All you can do is hope for the best for your team—and not hold your fantasy draft until the carnage abates.