NFL preseason games are a dangerous waste of time

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There was a time when preseason games provided a window to see if your favorite NFL team had improved during the offseason, but not anymore.

The games are void of drama and intensity and full of liability. If there is any doubt, go ask the Green Bay Packers, who lost receiver Jordy Nelson (knee), and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), to injuries over the weekend.


Have the Ravens improved from a year ago? After three weeks of training camp and two preseason games, there is no definitive answer. On paper they should be better, especially on defense with the additions of cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety Kendrick Lewis.

But right now, there is no hard evidence to prove that is true. The third preseason game is supposed to be the primer for the regular season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 13 because only reserves play in the fourth game.


But the Ravens probably won't treat Saturday night's game against the Washington Redskins any different than the first two. They can't afford to, not with what transpired over the weekend.

Nelson is one of the best receivers in pro football, a game changer who is paired with the NFL's top quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.

Now, Nelson's gone.

Pouncey was the anchor and most versatile performer on Pittsburgh's offensive line, which protects the skill players in possibly the most prolific offense in the game.

He's gone, too.

The Ravens, at least, got through that debacle in Philadelphia Saturday night without any apparent season-ending injuries. So, there is no need to panic. No one needs to sell their house or cash in the 401k. But there is still concern about this football team.

The Ravens came into training camp with a lot of questions, and there still aren't many answers. We wanted to know about the health of starting cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (sprained foot) and Lardarius Webb (back, groin, everything) and the pictures still aren't clear.

Smith has played well at times in camp, but performed poorly in practices in Philadelphia last week. He played just long enough in the Eagles game for receiver Riley Cooper to blow past him, and then he was on the bench.


Webb has been a disappointment so far. He failed the team's opening conditioning test and hasn't performed well in practices. He hasn't practiced since Aug. 11 because of a hamstring injury, which isn't surprising for a player who reported out of shape.

Will Hill has performed well at strong safety and Lewis and Arrington have been solid, but if the Ravens lose any of these players, they are in trouble. The have depth, but not quality depth.

And then there is outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. So far, he has been nothing more than a carnival barker, even though he'll show up for the opener.

At least Suggs practices. The Ravens have handled some other players like they were grandma's good China. Veteran defensive end Chris Canty hasn't played a snap in the preseason. The Ravens have also been cautious with offensive tackle Rick Wagner (foot) and guard Kelechi Osemele (Achilles). Top draft pick Breshad Perriman, a receiver out of Central Florida, hasn't suited up since the first day of full practice in training camp.

Perriman might or might not be consistent as a pass catcher, but right now he is the missing ingredient for a team that has a stable of possessions receivers.

It's unknown if coach John Harbaugh is being cautious with Perriman, but who could blame him if he is? When you look around the league, which is filled with parity, even a player like Perriman at this point of his career could make a big difference.


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It's a shame for a team to lose a player like Nelson or Pouncey in a worthless preseason game. It's even worse to lose them in practice. That's reflected in how practices are run these days.

When former Colts coach Ted Marchibroda returned to Baltimore to coach the Ravens, he held some of the most physical training camps in the league. Harbaugh, meanwhile, holds three-hour practices — but they combine limited hitting with glorified walkthroughs.

Preseason games are really a waste of time. Teams have conditioning workouts throughout the offseason and they also hold various organized team activities, minicamps and passing camps.

Combined with training camp, that should be ample time for everyone involved to get ready for the regular season. But the league will never reduce the number of preseason games.

Those games are just another way for NFL owners to make money. Unfortunately, they also cost them players.