With stars in street clothes, preseason now useless
Posted: Friday August 24, 2007 12:47PM; Updated: Friday August 24, 2007 1:55PM
We already knew the games didn't count. But what the 2007 NFL preseason has taught us -- more than ever before -- is that they don't matter either.
NFL preseason games are meaningless to the point of being a joke, and getting more so all the time. This year has simply unmasked the charade that the August exhibition games have become, lending ever-increasing acceptance and credibility to the notion that there's nothing going on these days on the field that can't be missed.
I'm sure you've noticed, but when the league's reigning MVP, LaDainian Tomlinson, has only showed up in those new Chargers uniforms in commercials, not in a game, it speaks volumes about the inconsequential nature of preseason football.
When Randy Moss is held out of action with a relatively mild hamstring injury for the entire month to date, and no one bats an eye, there's only a winking respect being shown for the preseason. And when holdouts such as Larry Johnson, Asante Samuel, and maybe even Michael Strahan know they can make due with just one (or less) tune-up game before the regular season commences, then the vital work that supposedly gets conducted in August seems a heck of a lot less critical.
When you talk to players, coaches and club decision-makers in training camp, they'll tell you that the preseason has largely become an exercise in injury avoidance. The teams that stay the healthiest are the winners, no matter what transpired between the white lines. To be sure, generating a sense of momentum going into the regular season, fostering some roster competition and exhibiting a mastery of one's schemes are big objectives for any team.
But the biggest goal -- by far -- is to side-step the fate that befell the Giants and Ravens on Sunday night, when bodies crumpled like tin foil and the injury report became everyone's lead story. In the preseason, you keep score by attrition rate, and the points on the scoreboard don't mean anywhere near as much as how your injuries affect the numbers of your salary cap and your depth chart. That's why an LT can be held out of two consecutive preseasons and San Diego doesn't even feel the need to pay lip service to the unwritten rule that starters must play at least a couple of series per game in August.
Every year, of course, there are howls of protest about the meaningless nature of the preseason. But the prevailing approach to August within the NFL isn't changing any time soon, even if the league does shorten the schedule to three games as has been discussed. Teams will merely have three games to tip-toe around, rather than four, and the debate will no doubt shift to the notion of a two-game preseason. But injuries will still be the backdrop behind everything, and the biggest news will center on who's not playing rather than who is.
It's not right. It's not wrong. It's just the way it is. Much more than ever, teams are truly built these days during the many rounds of offseason workouts and mini-camps. The NFL preseason? It's to be endured, not enjoyed. The games have never counted, but they matter less than ever. Once August begins, we always realize anew that September can't get here fast enough.
I'm guessing the Chiefs aren't quite as eager today to declare their quarterback competition over and crown Brodie Croyle the winner as they were before Thursday night's debacle against the Saints. In his three quarters of action, Croyle was a paltry 5 of 17 for 45 yards and an interception in the 30-7 loss to New Orleans, and he's now just 16 of 36 with three interceptions and one touchdown this preseason.
Sore calf muscle or not, veteran Damon Huard still might give the Chiefs their best shot of winning at Houston in Week 1. All preseason long, we've been hearing that it was Croyle's job to lose in K.C., and with his showing against the Saints, he just might have.