Written by Rusty Miller
With a little over half of the preseason wrapped up, the annual injury bug has started to spread across the NFL once again. Two high-profile rookies, Redskins running back Derrius Guice and Colts receiver Deon Cain, went down with season-ending ACL tears in week 1. Another rookie, Patriots offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn tore his Achilles tendon in week 2. Here’s a list of other players who suffered notable injuries this preseason: Packers linebacker Jake Ryan, Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett, Titans’ safety Johnathan Cyprien, Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley and linebacker Jeremy Cash, Panthers cornerback Ross Cockrell, running back Fozzy Whittaker, and defensive back Damian Parms, Cowboys receiver Cedrick Wilson, Giants’ rookie defensive back Sam Beal, and Bills quarterback A.J. McCarron. This laundry list of injuries shows what can happen when players are faced with the rigors of training camp and preseason play.
With all these injuries ending players’ seasons prematurely, one must ask the question, why not shorten the amount of or even eliminate preseason games? From a general manager perspective, the two weeks of training camp plus the four preseason games gives you ample time to evaluate the roster and decide who to keep and who to cut. But, a head coach will tell you that four preseason games are too many because of injuries that can occur. Although a litany of injuries does occur during training camp and the preseason, it is all luck on who gets hurt on what teams. There are teams annually that always seem to have major injuries such as the Chargers, but most teams do not see this every year. IQVIA, an independent third-party company, analyzed that between 2012 and 2017 there were 156 ACL tears in the preseason and 195 in the regular and postseason. Even though ACL tears are a major injury, the incidence of MCL tears, which are not necessarily season-ending, is much higher with IQVIA reporting 257 in the preseason and 629 occurring in the regular and postseason. With these statistics in mind, the chance of a player tearing their ACL in the preseason as opposed to the regular or postseason is 44% and the chance of an MCL tear in the preseason drops drastically to 29%.
I believe the amount of games is necessary for the evaluation of players and seeing how a roster needs to be put together. But shortening it by one game and possibly starting training camp later for teams not participating in the Hall of Fame Game is an option. Three weeks is still plenty of time to evaluate the roster and decreases the amount of playing time the starters would have, thus decreasing their injury chances.