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Should the NFL Eliminate the Preseason? One Coach Thinks So


John Harbaugh wants to stop playing games with preseasons and start with the stuff that matters.

On Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Detroit Lions 30-9 in their third preseason game. After the game, the Ravens head coach was livid at the loss of starting tight end Ben Watson, who tore his Achilles in what the coach considers a meaningless contest, rather than happy about the win.

“These are big, fast, strong men running around out there and it’s not 25 years ago, it’s not the ’70s anymore,” Harbaugh said. “These games, they’re tough. And they’re not meaningful games.”

Harbaugh wants to do away with the NFL’s summer exhibition games altogether.

“If I had my druthers, I’d go with [no preseason games],” Harbaugh said. “That might be an extreme point, but we can run scrimmages and we can run practices against other teams and all figure it out. We’d all be in the same boat.”

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was just as upset as Harbaugh last summer after losing his favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a season-ending knee injury in a preseason tilt against Pittsburgh.

“It’s difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game,” Rodgers said after this game. “This game doesn’t mean anything. I think a lot of players around the league probably [want to do away with the preseason].”

Jets coach Todd Bowles doesn’t agree with Harbaugh and Rodgers, and has no problem with four preseason games.

“They can get hurt in three [preseason games], they can get hurt in two, they can get hurt in one,” Bowles said on Monday. “It only takes one game to get hurt, so from an injury standpoint, I don’t feel like there is a need to take away the fourth.”

And Bowles thinks cutting the preseason would hurt player evaluations, especially with young players.

“If you take away a fourth preseason game, then you’re almost forced to have scrimmages against other teams so you can get better looks at [young players], but that’s not the same as playing [games],” Bowles said.

The Jets still have some undecided roster spots up, and Bowles wants to see the combatants in the Jets’ fourth preseason game, against Philadelphia, to help him make better decisions.

“We have some roster spots up for grabs so it’s valuable for us right now,” Bowles said. “I think it’s valuable to the young guys, maybe not so much for the older guys.”

Where does the commissioner stand on this issue?

“I don’t believe the veterans need four preseason games anymore,” Goodell said four years ago. “The primary purpose of a preseason for a team is to evaluate and develop players and then they select their teams.”

But many NFL teams bring in extensive revenue from preseason games because fans must buy these seats as part of season-ticket plans. So, Goodell and the owners aren’t going to cut the preseason unless the union agrees to expand the regular season.

Goodell has floated the idea of two preseason and 18 regular season games.

Harbaugh thinks that might be a good compromise.

“More [regular-season] games, fewer preseason games, and bigger rosters – that’s good for everybody,” Harbaugh said.

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