The idea of an 18-game regular season in the NFL will most likely become a reality in the near future — as with most things that are centered on ownership in this league. But, one of the key factors in this discussion is the preseason schedule and the “quality” of football that is put out in front of paying fans.
I understand the desire to pay for a ticket and see the Peyton Mannings and the Tom Bradys on the field — the big names — instead of players who are not going to show up on an NFL roster come September. You deserve that if you are paying top dollar for a ticket.
But, will the evaluation process of both rookies and those veteran players that find themselves on the roster bubble take a major hit?
The reason I bring this up is because of my own experience and from seeing rookies and older veterans scratch and claw to make that final cut. They need the time and they need the opportunities. Yes, they may not make that exact club’s final roster, but if they can make a play or two on special teams, show the ability to play within the basic schemes in the fourth quarter of preseason games and — hopefully — show enough potential on tape, then they may catch on somewhere else at some point in the regular season.
I know I needed the entire slate of the preseason schedule as a rookie to make the St. Louis Rams back in 2000. It is about opportunities to play in competitive settings.
Most veterans don’t need that 4-game schedule in August to prepare for the season, and it does present more opportunities for a player to go down with a season-ending injury. But, they still need to see live action, learn how to set their pads again and get into top football shape — which can only happen by playing the game. There is some benefit to these games for the vets who have been around for awhile.
So, where do we draw the line? Two games? Three games? Is that enough time for the vets to work on their technique against live action and for rookies to do enough to show up on the game film that is passed around the league?
Both Brady and Baltimore’s Ray Lewis have spoken out against the proposed 18-game season, and this is a discussion that can go on forever (and something we will get into when this story continues to develop), and there are pros and cons of playing those two extra regular season games.
But, the owners will get their money for a 20-game slate — no matter how we add them up between the preseason and the regular season.
I just hope that the league considers that the evaluation process of the preseason helps determine who is NFL-ready and who is not.
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