Why Canceling NFL Preseason Games Was The Right Decision

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots former player Ty Law before Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL preseason has long been one of the most maligned traditions in professional sports. The games are often terrible, over almost before they start. None of the players that fans love to watch make it onto the field for more than a drive or two—if they play at all.

It can feel like one big disappointment, like eating that certain food you loved as a kid, only to find out that as an adult, your tastes have changed.

Well, in one of those be careful what you wish for situations, for the first time in forever, there will be no NFL preseason this year.

The league first tried cutting it from four games down to two. But this week they made it official. There will be no NFL preseason whatsoever.

The league and the player’s union did not make their negotiations public, but the reasoning goes that players did not feel comfortable returning to the playing field while the virus rages on in much of the country.

It’s a perfectly logical decision, but that doesn’t mean that fans shouldn’t feel at least a little disappointed.

One argument goes that by not playing the preseason, that gives teams and players more time to acclimate to a return to training with an entire team. It gives them more time to make sure that all of the necessary health protocols are in place to limit people getting sick.

One can hope that things might look different in a month, that perhaps the virus’ spread will be lessened.

The pessimist’s argument is that if they can’t figure things out now for the preseason, then it makes it unlikely that they will figure things out in order to play a regular season a month later.

The NFL is not like the NBA, where they can sequester all the teams together in a single place and obviate the need for airplane travel. The volume of personnel makes that option untenable.

Set aside for questions about the regular season for now.

Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. People have complained about the preseason forever. Fans are disappointed. Players have long lamented the additional games because they put more wear and tear on their bodies with little return on investment. How many times have we seen a team go 4-0 in the preseason, only to tank when the regular season begins?

The league of course loves the preseason, since it means more television time to sell to advertisers.

Coaching staffs use the preseason as a way to evaluate talent in advance of the final roster cuts. But the last thing they want is for a potential asset to suffer a season-ending injury. They would likely find other ways to decide who makes the cut and who doesn’t.

We don’t know what will happen once the pandemic is over and sports return to normal. But don’t be surprised if the NFL preseason doesn’t return. It could be replaced by two more regular season games. Sure, the players’ union might resist, but if players’ pay went up as a result, they may acquiesce.

So as we lament the loss of so many things that we cherish, let’s also recognize that we may also lose some things we weren’t that happy with anyway.

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About Paul Redman 122 Articles
Paul Redman is a writer and chef in Seattle who grew up in the Midwest. His work has appeared in print and online, including San Francisco magazine, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contrary. He eats too many chicken wings and cracks way too many dad jokes and food puns. Follow him on Twitter @predman.