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Eatman: Trickle-Down Effect of No Preseason

copy of 2019-Training-Camp-Practice-14-thumb

On this Wednesday, I write an article from my kitchen table, wearing flip-flops and basketball shorts.

I was supposed to be packed and ready to go to California for yet another training camp. And while we still are scheduled to have a camp at The Star, it certainly will be different.

Obviously, everything about this year is different, and yet another example of that came down this week when we learned there won't be ANY preseason games on the schedule this year.

First, we saw the Hall of Fame Game cancelled, which really didn't disappoint too many people that I know. I mean, if the league is trying to cut the preseason schedule down to just two games anyway, why have any team play five games, especially in a pandemic. So we knew that was happening.

But then the NFL announced it would trim the schedule to just two games this year – one home and one away game.

And now, it's none.

If you know me at all, you'll know that I've never been one to badmouth preseason games. Sure, they're not that exciting, the final outcome doesn't matter and we rarely see the top players.

But I've always had the "football is football" mentality. And this year, of all years, when I've actually watched a few innings of the Korean Baseball League and competitive cornhole, I would certainly like to see some preseason football.

Of course, I get it. I get why most players didn't want to play. I do find it a little tricky that most of the player reps that are saying they don't want to play preseason games are probably established vets who wouldn't be playing anyway.

I'm sure there are some undrafted rookies and/or young players who are absolutely crushed that they won't get the chance to shine.

Just remember a year ago. We were all somewhat intrigued by rookie linebacker Luke Gifford by what we'd seen and heard from his non-padded practices. But we got to San Francisco for the preseason opener, and sure enough, there's Gifford showing out. He gets an interception and makes an open-field tackle in the first half.

And then … he suffers an ankle injury that wiped out his entire preseason.

But because he made two plays in a preseason game, he was on the team. The Cowboys kept him on the roster because apparently that was enough for them to see to keep him around.

Just don't say preseason games don't matter. They do to some, just not to the majority of fans who are dying to get their fantasy football lineups in place.

But there's a bunch of players who needed the preseason. And, it's not like the practices that do occur in camp are going to be these intense pad-thumping sessions that we've seen in movies such as The Program or Friday Night Lights.

So, how is an undrafted rookie supposed to really stand out? Well, awareness is going to be key. They better show out in the meetings, find themselves in the right spot on the field and then when the time presents itself, make a play or three in practice.

And make no mistake, I'm not sitting here lobbying to play exhibition football games while the country is trying to work its way through the pandemic. This is uncharted territory for everyone, and I actually appreciate everyone who has to make really difficult decisions that will affect so many people.

All I'm saying is that if you have a "big deal?" approach to hearing there is no preseason games, just remember that they matter to some. This was a chance for some people to earn a living in a sport they've played for the majority of their lives. And now, their road is going to be even harder.

If you're a coach trying to decide who is on the 53-man roster, are you going to use a veteran linebacker to fill out your special teams unit or a rookie who hasn't played a real football game since his bowl game back in late December?

It's not fair, but it's going to happen.

I get why the NFL decided to do this. Ultimately, the players and coaches are putting themselves at risk by playing at all, so why waste time with preseason games.

Makes sense and probably the right call all the way around.

But it's an unfortunate reality to some.