Growing Number of Injuries Calls for an End to the NFL Pre-season Games


Miami Dolphins second round draft pick and projected starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan is helped off the field after tearing his ACL on the opening kickoff of the first game of the 2017 pre-season. He is out for the season.

The National Football League’s (NFL) preseason games span four weeks and gives each organization time to warm up their starters before the beginning of the regular season, see how the back-up players perform in in-game situations, and experiment with new plays on the field.

In concept, the pre-season is a necessity to the dynamic of the NFL. However, these four games are also a ripe opportunity for key player injuries, which can be a high price to pay for games that are basically meaningless as they have no bearing on the season.

It’s time for the preseason to come to an end.

In the defense of the preseason, teams are able to get a feel for players and their chemistry at a time where losses and wins will not matter. Coaches can test out second and third string athletes and see if they work better with the playbook than the starters. Decisions can be made on who should be released from the roster and which free agent should be signed on to fill their spot. Then, there’s even time to test out if said free agent is a match for the team’s system. Although even with this manner of assessing depth and working out the kinks, the cons still heavily outweigh the pros.

Injuries that occur during the preseason have rattled the league and changed the course of numerous seasons in recent years. One major example of this occurred the year before last.

Jordy Nelson, arguably one of the greatest and most dangerous wide receivers in the league today, had a hugely successful season in 2014. His final statistics for that season included 98 receptions for 1,519 yards, while scoring 13 touchdowns. Most analysts looked at Nelson as the most prolific wide receiver going into the 2015 season.

However, on August 23, 2015, Nelson laced up his cleats and strapped on his pads, preparing for a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Early in the opening drive of the first quarter, elite Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers stepped back with the ball in hand. Mid-throw, a Steelers lineman began to tackle Rodgers, and the throw to the wide-open Nelson sails a little high. Nelson leapt up and came down with the ball, landing awkwardly on his right foot. Turning to run without completely having both feet on the turf, Nelson’s left knee buckled and he fell to the ground. Able to hobble back to the sideline, Nelson was examined and was told his injury would be season-ending.

The Packers felt the loss of Nelson, but managed to scrape up a 10-6 season. However, his presence was missed in the playoffs as Green Bay was defeated by the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional round.

Other big name stars who were taken out by preseason injuries last season include Carolina receiver Kelvin Benjamin (ACL), Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr (ankle), Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (broken bone in back), and Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (ACL).

This pre-season, Miami Dolphins second round draft pick and projected starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan tore his ACL on the opening kickoff of the first game of the pre-season against the Atlanta Falcons. His season is over, after just one meaningless play.

In addition to awful season and career-altering injuries, the preseason can be a very misguided view into what the regular season will look like for organizations.

A solid record in the preseason has no bearing on the skill of a team or how players and records will fare in the regular season, when it all matters. Nor does a negative record show that a rocky season lies ahead. In fact, preseason truly means nothing at all.

As previously stated, the games do not count. The stars barely ever see more than a quarter on the field. The games are sloppy. It is very evident that the players are aware these contests have no effect on their team’s success. The late sand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg once likened the NFL preseason to pancakes: “all exciting at first, but then by the end, you’re [expletive] sick of ‘em.”

While it may be a fun time every now and then to see the teams, the hunger fans have for helmet-knocking, pad-smacking, ball-running American football could never be satisfied by sloppy, lackluster play.

The preseason has proven to be dangerous and pulls away many stars from what could be record-setting seasons and defining games of their careers. It improperly and incorrectly sets the tone for the upcoming season.

The ball is in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s court. Clearly, change needs to come.