Tuesday, August 23, 2022

NFL Preseason Body Count Keeps Rising

By Anthony Brancato

As reported in these lines last week, the NFL's "other pandemic" — the preseason injury pandemic — burgeoned apace in Week 2 of the exhibition season, with multiple catastrophic injuries to notable players.

It started on Friday night at Occam's Razor, also and better known as Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where potential third-round rookie steal Matt Corral, who was to battle Sam Darnold, a bust in near full bloom, for the backup quarterback job behind Baker Mayfield (at least for now), sustained a Lis Franc injury in the fourth quarter of Carolina's 20-10 loss to the Patriots, which is expected to retroactively end his 2022 season.

(For all of you trivia buffs out there, that injury is named after Dr. Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin, a French surgeon during the Napoleonic Wars.)

Three hours later, offensive guard Logan Bruss, the first player selected by the Rams in the 2022 draft — albeit with the draft's 104th overall pick, tore both his ACL and MCL in the team's 24-20 home loss to the Texans, also ending what would have been his rookie season before it even had the chance to begin.

On Saturday night, Buccaneers offensive guard Aaron Stinnie, a starter on an offensive line that has already lost center Ryan Jensen to a season-ending knee injury suffered during the first week of the team's training camp, was the victim of the same "double trouble" as Bruss, tearing both this ACL and MCL in Tampa Bay's 13-3 loss to Tennessee at Raymond James Stadium, joining Jensen on the sidelines for the entire upcoming season.

Also on Saturday, Broncos cornerback Michael Ojemudia, a third-round draft choice of Denver in 2020, suffered the injury made famous by Tom Laughlin (if by reference only) in the 1971 cult classic film Billy Jack — a dislocated elbow (left elbow in this case) — during a 42-15 blowout loss at Buffalo. Ojemudia is expected to miss four to six weeks — and in a bizarre coincidence, starting Denver inside linebacker Jonas Griffith also dislocated his elbow against Dallas in the team's first preseason game and is also expected to miss four to six weeks.

And Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Giants' rookie edge rusher who was the fifth overall pick in the 2022 draft, was more fortunate than either Bruss or Stinnie, "only" spraining his MCL in their 25-22 win over the Bengals on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and actually has a chance to be back in time for the team's regular-season opener against the Titans in Nashville.

There comes a time when the NFL needs to say what they say in the old country — at least this writer's old country anyway:


And not for nothing — but has college football ever had any of these exhibition games?

If the NFL abolishes the preseason, lengthens the regular season to 18 games, and adds a second bye week for each team while eliminating the totally unnecessary idle week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, in order for the latter to always be played on the Presidents' Day weekend, the first Sunday of the regular season would henceforth fall on whichever date from September 6 through September 12 is a Sunday — meaning that no more often than once every five or six years would the regular season begin on the Labor Day weekend (and sometimes there would be 11 years between such occurrences).

Besides, the onerous OTAs that are already in place have added a new and undue burden on NFL players — and these can be modestly expanded to partially compensate for the loss of the preseason games, which have already undergone a steady contraction, from six games prior to 1978 to four games from 1978 through 2019, all inclusive, to three games both last season and this season (and there were no preseason games in 2020 because of the pandemic).

As for the Hall of Fame Game, it can be kept — but always match up the teams that had finished with the worst record in each conference the previous season, subject to tie-breaking procedures if necessary. Since players will want to avoid playing in the game, this will be a powerful deterrent to tanking. It can be played on the Thursday night before the start of the regular season, thus taking away from these two teams the bye week that all teams now have before the 17-game regular season begins.

How many people still write in cursive? Or use typewriters? Or look in the Yellow Pages for phone numbers? And when was the last time anyone actually used a payphone or watched a black-and-white TV set?

As the late George Harrison sang in his post-Beatles reincarnation, all things must pass.

Let that include "preseason" football.

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