Above all, those who pay attention to the NFL are clearly fans of the sport. It’s an obvious statement, but the rich history and untold stories permit the media and fans alike to always be anxious about what is to come next.
As the NFL developed, so did its format. In 1978, the league ushered a schedule that consisted of a four preseason games and 16 regular season games. The preseason was introduced with the Hall of Fame game in early August, and concluded with one week left before the regular season.
Within time, some of us grew tired of NFL preseason games. This became evident with the ongoing injuries occurring during training camp and during the preseason. In 2015, after former Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul dislocated his ankle, Bleacher Report was one of the multiple major outline platforms to call for the end of NFL preseason action. Author Mike Freeman stated the following:
“Preseason games have nothing to do with football. They’re moneymakers for the owners. That’s their purpose.”
Eventually, the narrative of “anti-preseason”, mixed with the fact that we are currently enduring a global pandemic, was enough for the NFL to be convinced that players could go without preseason ahead of the 2020 season.
After Week 1, there were minimal outliers. It seemed to be one of the best decisions the NFL has made, and may have revolutionized how teams prepare for competition. Even NFL legend Charles Woodson believed the league made the right decision.
However, just one week later, all former critics of the preseason were silenced. Since the end of Week 2, it has been reported that over 15 players have suffered season-ending injuries. Among them are some of the brightest stars, such as Denver Broncos’ Von Miller, New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley, and San Francisco 49ers’ Nick Bosa.
This also doesn’t include the fact that other growing talents, such as Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey and Denver Broncos’ Drew Lock, are expected to miss multiple weeks due to injury.
There are plenty of reasons for fans to tune out of preseason action. Just last season, the Sunday night preseason matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings marked 5.3 million viewers on FOX; the least-watched Sunday night game since television deals were updated in 2006.
It is fair to say that the idea of no preseason has been a failed experiment. The NFL will likely go back to the drawing board following the end of the season and discuss the outline of a shortened preseason, rather than eliminating it as a whole. Regardless, it’s now obvious that the benefits severely outweigh the consequences.