It was all good just a week ago.
Just days ago, the internet was gushing over a dubsmash video of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Hollywood girlfriend Oliver Munn lip synching ’90s love songs. The highest-paid NFL player hadn’t a care in the world.
But nothing says #BackToFootball faster than seeing your Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson go down with a potential season-ending injury, currently being ruled a torn ACL. And yet, that’s exactly what life is currently like for the part-time crooner.
Following Nelson’s in-game scare, Rodgers spoke out and blasted “meaningless games.” When discussing the possibility of losing his top target for the entire season, Rodgers said “It’s difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game.” And when asked if he’d like to see the preseason eliminated, he added, “I think a lot of players around the league probably do. At least cut it down, maybe, to a couple.” But also admitted that it’s easier said than done. In closing, Rodgers said, “A lot would have to happen. The fans, I think, are paying close to full-price tickets. It’s not just the coaches’ and the players’ decision.”
When your number one receiver is potentially done for the season, this type of reaction is valid. And, to Rodgers’ point, it would take a lot for the NFL to reconsider preseason games, and not because it’s not the coaches’ and players’ decision; because let’s be real, aside from the fans, they have the least amount of power of anyone. But because of his former point, all of the money involved.
Season-ticket holders pay full price for “meaningless” preseason games because it’s part of their overall package. So whether the stands are full or not, the league has already cashed in on low attended games. There’s absolutely no chance the NFL walks away from that money by reducing the number of preseason games, unless of course they increase the number of regular season games, a frequent topic of discussion of recent years. But, if the point is to reduce the number of severe injuries, then altering the schedule, without reducing the overall number of games played, isn’t the solution. Whether injuries occur during a preseason game or Week 1 of the regular season, the result is still devastating.
The fact of the matter is, injuries happen. Regardless the time of year — training camp, preseason, or a regular season — guys are going to suffer injuries. They just are.
Today’s rules applied to team practices and scrimmages have softened so significantly, players are virtually prevented from making any real contact with each other, and guys are still going down. This week, the Carolina Panthers’ second-year wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL on a non-contact play. And according to Zach Kruse of Cheesehead TV, a Packers’ fan site, Nelson’s injury occurred via a move he’s made often. Unfortunately, these freak, non-preventable injuries happen, and nearly every team in the league has been impacted by more than a couple of injuries already. It’s simply part of the game.
Like the majority of NFL fans, I don’t enjoy watching most preseason games due to the low quality of talent getting the majority of minutes, making them damn near unwatchable. However, I still recognize the value in those games. Preseason games are a necessary evil which allow coaches to better assess new, raw, and untapped players who are either struggling or on the bubble. Sometimes, it confirms what’s already known, that a player may not be a fit. Or, on the flipside, it allows teams to discover its next big star. For example, in 2010, the NFL world was gifted an undrafted free agent, a New York Giants wide receiver named Victor Cruz, who’s now a household name. Because of a strong preseason showing, he made the team, and the rest is history. And there are countless guys around the league — Arian Foster, Antonio Gates — to name a couple, who share similar NFL journeys. Furthermore, preseason games also allow newbie coaches to get their feet wet in the same manner as young, or newly acquired players do. Another solid reason why preseason games are essential to the overall preparation and evaluation process. Just like major productions have previews or dress rehearsals before making a grand debut, sports have preseason games. While they may not count toward the overall record, ruling them out as meaningless is oversimplifying things.
Rodgers, the 2014 MVP, is a smart guy who gets it. His lowkey shade about the NFL heisting fans for full-price tickets during the preseason is proof that he understands the bigger picture; which makes me also believe, if Rodgers had more time to address the loss of a receiver who caught nearly 1/3 of his 38 regular season touchdowns last season, his response would be slightly different.
Regardless, what happened to Nelson is unfortunate. But if anyone is capable of carrying his team without relying on his number one weapon, it’s Rodgers. After all, that’s why the pay him in the big bucks.
Now excuse me while I adjust my fantasy football draft strategy.