Fewer NFL Preseason Games on Tap in 2017?
7 Sep, 2016By: Michael Popke
The National Football League’s regular season opens on Sept. 11, and — as in preseasons past — one of the main topics of conversation the past four weeks was whether such a long exhibition season is necessary. Or even safe.
One of the biggest proponents of a shorter NFL preseason this time was John Harbaugh, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, which lost veteran tight end Benjamin Watson and rookie running back Kenneth Dixon to injuries in a meaningless game.
“I know the league and the Players Association is working very hard and trying to figure out ideas to work out the preseason,” Harbaugh told the media following the Ravens’ 30-9 win over the Detroit Lions. “These are big, fast, strong men running around out there. It’s not 25 years ago. ... It’s not the ’70s anymore. These guys playing in these games — it’s tough — and they’re not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails.
“Maybe it’s more games that are meaningful,” Harbaugh continued, suggesting possible solutions to the problem. “Bigger rosters are something I think would really help. If you go more games, fewer preseason games, and bigger rosters, that’s good for everybody.”
The Ravens aren’t the only team that suffered devastating injuries to key players before an official regular-season down was played. Probably the biggest name was Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who broke a bone in his back in a preseason matchup against the Seattle Seahawks and is expected to miss a good chunk of games.
The eventual reduction or outright elimination of preseason games could decrease a host city’s economic impact. Orlando’s Camping World Stadium hosted a Week 3 preseason matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons, and city officials were thrilled.
“We’re excited because over 50 percent of the tickets were sold outside the Orlando area,” Allen Johnson, executive director of Orlando Venues, told WESH-TV. “They’re eating in our restaurants, visiting our places of entertainment, so they’re spending money on our local economy, new money.”