Every preseason, the same things happen: Someone is injured and is out for the season, and their head coach speaks out against the number of preseason games in the NFL, offering some sort of change. This time, it’s John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens, frustrated with seeing Benjamin Watson, his tight end, go down with a torn achilles tendon, which means he won’t be available in 2016.
Watson, 35, had a career-year with the New Orleans Saints last season, and signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Ravens, who have been dealing with plenty of injuries at the tight end position over the last few years. But as Watson was moving on the first offensive play of the Ravens 3rd preseason game, he tore his achilles tendon, which means he’s out for the season, and unless he makes a quick and good recovery, he’ll be cut by the Ravens before the beginning of the 2017 season.
Harbaugh, who saw last season get thrown into the trash because of injuries, including to quarterback Joe Flacco, took the opportunity to speak his mind about the current state of the preseason, and offer that the league and the NFLPA do something about it.
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. I’m really hopeful that the union and the league can get together and do something that’s good for everybody — especially what’s good for the players and for the fans. If you go more games, fewer preseason games and bigger rosters, that’s good for everybody. To me, that’s something that they can put their heads together and work out. It would be a positive. If I had my choice, I’d go none. That might be an extreme point, but we could run scrimmages, or we could run practices against other teams and figure it out. We’d all be in the same boat. That’s for people higher up than me to decide.
There have always been discussions about changing the NFL schedule. The league (although obviously not all owners agree) has been on the lookout for an 18-game season, taking away from the preseason. Considering that there have been shorter rest days with the inclusion of the Thursday night game, it doesn’t seem like this is done for the good of the players. The NFL wants 17 NFL weeks and 4 preseason games. It means money, it means TV numbers, it means attendance numbers, and the league isn’t going to change that just because players get injured.
And it doesn’t seem as if the Ravens own players are with Harbaugh in this argument, as Terrell Suggs takes the approach that these things happen, and there isn’t anything anyone can do. It’s just the kind of sport it is.
Anytime you line up on a football field and risk getting hurt, it’s out there. Truth be told, we need some of these games … just maybe not four … maybe three, maybe two. But we do need some of them, but other than that, people getting hurt, it’s very unfortunate, but we know it’s part of the game.
Watson caught 74 passes for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. He has missed only one game in the last four seasons, and outside his rookie year in 2004, he has played in at least 12 games each season, never having to deal with a serious injury. He has played for the New England Patriots (2004-2009), Cleveland Browns (2010-2012) and the New Orleans Saints (2013-2015) before signing with the Ravens.
Thank you all for the outpouring of love encouragement &prayer tonight. In a sad heartbreaking time it has truly lifted my spirits. Rom 8:28
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) August 28, 2016