The preseason is always a risky time of year as teams are usually flirting with disaster if the injury bug strikes.
The Baltimore Ravens were victimized Saturday night. Tight end Benjamin Watson was lost for the year when he tore his right Achilles tendon on the first play of the game. Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon also left the game with a sprained left knee.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is sick of seeing players go down in meaningless games and called for change during his postgame press conference.
“It’s not the ’70s anymore,” Harbaugh said, according to ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley. “These guys playing in these games — it’s tough — and they’re not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails.”
The preseason has been a hotly debated topic the past few years. As the game continues to get faster and more physical, the preseason has provided more opportunities for serious injuries to star players. But, there’s still the important element of giving players at least a handful of live game reps.
So how would Harbaugh change the preseason? He said eliminating it entirely would be a wise decision.
“If I had my choice, I’d go none,” Harbaugh said when asked how many preseason games he would prefer, according to Hensley. “That might be an extreme point, but we could run scrimmages, or we could run practices against other teams and figure it out. We’d all be in the same boat.”
Harbaugh added that the NFL could add more regular-season games and expand rosters as a compromise, but the players’ union might not love that idea.
As the 2016 preseason wraps up next week, coaches, players and executives will continue to debate how to best modify the preseason to minimize injury risk and maximize preparation and evaluation opportunities.