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Archive for Saturday, September 1, 2007

Four NFL preseason games are two too many

September 1, 2007

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— Champ Bailey, Nick Ferguson, Dre Bly and John Lynch stood on the sidelines, wearing no pads and laughing constantly.

They were fully prepared in case the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals decided a flag-football game would be more appropriate, and more interesting, for the second half of Thursday's exhibition clash.

Are fans, players and coaches served by the National Football League's four-game preseason?

No.

So why do the owners insist on this ridiculously lengthy prelude to the season?

Cash, my friend. Mountains of cash.

If you want a season-ticket for the Broncos, there's this little catch. You also must purchase tickets to two all-but-meaningless preseason games.

I'm not calling this practice outright robbery. I am saying it's awfully close.

New NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made admirable strides as he seeks to improve his league. He should stand up to the titans who own NFL teams and force a serious trim of the preseason.

Greed explains why NFL owners refuse, ignoring a multitude of strong reasons, to reduce the preseason. The Broncos should play one home exhibition game and one on the road and then start playing for real.

That's a realistic goal. We can all dream of the day when no exhibition games pollute our land, but that's a hope beyond hope.

There was no good reason for the Cardinals and Broncos to compete Thursday night at Invesco Field. The Broncos won, 21-3.

Both teams already had answered their biggest questions. Virtually all of the Broncos starters didn't bother to suit up. Cardinals stars Matt Leinart and Edgerrin James offered drive-by appearances, playing one series before retiring to the sidelines.

This retreat is only wise. The Broncos received a quick, and painful, taste of the perils of preseason football Aug. 18 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Starting defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban suffered a torn right Achilles' tendon, which probably means the end of his season.

On Thursday, the perils were again on display. Broncos cornerback Karl Paymah collapsed after a violent collision. He was motionless for several seconds and was rushed to a hospital.

He suffered a concussion, but the injury doesn't appear serious.

"He's feeling pretty good," said coach Mike Shanahan.

These scares are nothing new. On a summer night 36 years ago, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath blew out his left knee in an exhibition game against the Detroit Lions.

Linebacker Mike Lucci had recovered a fumble, and Namath, an intense competitor, couldn't help himself. While chasing Lucci, Namath tumbled to the ground, his knee a mess.

Namath towered as the NFL's marquee star, a fantastic, charismatic talent. He never was the same after his injury.

So there's a no-win scenario. If stars and starters play in exhibition games, they risk needless injury. If they stand on the sidelines and watch, paying customers are ripped off.

Cut these fake football games in half. Four exhibition games are intolerable. Two are more than enough.

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